SAINT PAUL, Minnesota — "That's what I tell my students before they leave class. You just got to be a good person and look out for other people."
That's Alicia Ekegren's creed and she is looking out for her students even when they're not in her classroom.
When the pandemic hit, the Ramsey Middle School Health and Physical Education teacher realized there was going to be more families going hungry.
"In our community there's a lot of food insecurities," Ekegren acknowledged.
"A lot of the kids rely on the food for breakfast and lunch, since they weren't coming to school anymore, I knew there was going to be a lot of issues with that," the educator continued.
Ekegren's students confirmed those thoughts after she spoke with them as the COVID-19 pandemic took off.
With Saint Paul Public Schools doing distance learning, Ekegren and other teachers turned her classroom into a community pantry, filled with everything from food to diapers and hygiene products.
Several nonprofit organizations and community groups started donating essentials that are delivered to students in need.
Many of the teachers go door-to-door themselves.
"It's three to four families per person, where I'll call a staff member and they come in. We put in the bags of groceries and supplies in their car and they drive out to four families," explained Ekegren.
Most of the work happens on Thursday. After class, the teachers start their deliveries.
But, these educators aren't doing this for extra credit; they just want to do right by their students.
"I think it really helps and I think it relieves some of the stress that families are having right now. If we can take one thing off their plate, I think that really helps," said Ekegren.
The deliveries also allow for a deeper and meaningful connection to the students.
"They're always super excited and so are the teachers. We don't get to see the kids as much as we want to right now with distance learning," explained Ekegren.
Since the new school year started, the teachers are providing food and supplies to 103 families.
Parent volunteers along with high school and college students help bag, sort, and organize the boxes families receive. These volunteers that show up on Thursday mornings make it possible for teachers to take out deliveries in the afternoon.
The participating organizations include:
- Second Harvest
- The Sheridan Story
- Hallie Q. Brown
- Neighborhood House
- UpWorks Minnesota
- The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
- Mas Food
- St. Paul Ultimate Community
- Ramsey Ultimate Community
- The Food Group
- Food Trucks (J/A)
- Friends and Family Donations
- Private Donations
- Community Store Donations
- SPPS Nutrition Services
- Ramsey Custodial
- SPPS Teachers/Staff Volunteers
- Community Volunteers
- Macalester College Volunteers
- Lend a Hand (St. Paul Central Student Club)
Ways to Help:
-Food and supply donations can be dropped off at Ramsey Middle School every Thursday between 7am to 11am. 1700 Summit Avenue St. Paul. (Use the Grand Avenue entrance/parking lot.)
-To make a monetary donation, email Alicia.Ekegren@spps.org