Nicole Jacobsen
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The Competition Gym at the Episcopal School of Dallas was buzzing with students and parents at the first “Snack Sack” presentation on Thursday, November 7. Having been divided into groups of four or five, students were responsible for researching and assembling nutritional snacks to donate to students at the St. Simon’s After School Program at Stephen C. Foster Elementary. The students then explained their selections to their parents on hand-made poster boards.

“We learned that some students have access to food, but it might not be healthy food,” Sumner Wooldridge explained. “These snack sacks provide alternatives and they also taste good. We were sad to learn that healthier food is more expensive than non-healthy food, so we’re really grateful to see these bags will help.”

The idea for students to research and work together to organize and donate the snack sacks was sparked by fifth grade math teacher Jill Simpson, who heard about the idea while attending a project-based learning conference in Toronto that encouraged school collaboration. Upon returning to ESD, Simpson teamed up with ESD’s Director of Community Service, Christi Morrow.

Through ESD’s Learning Innovation Grant program, Morrow and Simpson worked over the summer to develop an integrated learning unit that would not only sharpen students’ math skills, but also make them more aware of hunger issues and food insecurity challenges in North Texas and identify how they can help.

“I decided to tie it in with my decimals study,” Simpson explained. “It was too easy to just make the students quantify the costs of the boxes, so we made them discover snacks that have no more than 400 calories per serving, and put together a sack that falls within a budget. Students also used iPads to find food alternatives and nutritional values.”

The snacks had to come in sealed wrappers, and fit within a certain price range. Students were allowed to choose from their favorite foods, or research ideas on iPads and package labels.

“The math part of the project was really fun, but challenging, because we had to use the total calories in a box of snacks and divide it by the serving size,” student John Stallings said. “We could use the iPads to look at to help us find the numbers to start with, and then we worked together to come up with a solution that met the project’s requirements.”

The students receiving the snack sacks are not food deprived, but “food insecure,” meaning that while they are provided breakfast and lunch at school, they are not promised a dinner. The snack sacks will provide nutrition for students after the school day, and help ensure they have a wholesome snack during the weekend.

“This project was just one of several steps we’re taking to help raise student awareness about hunger insecurities in North Texas,” Morrow explained. “In December, these same students will deliver the food they collected to the North Texas Food Bank, see how the food is distributed, and learn how their actions are making a real-world difference.”

To see photos from the presentation day, please click here.

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