The following Standard Operating Procedure (S.O.P) is created to provide the basis of a joint program for the Eastern Region between Education and Social action. The program which fits into the Sigma Wellness initiative will be called “Food 4 Thought”.
During Conclave 2013 in Philadelphia, our Fraternity voted to reduce the number of International programs to two (2) per Program Area. In Education, the Adopt-a-School Program remains as a required Education component.
In order to succeed in school it’s important that students have the proper resources and tools in order to succeed. These include school supplies such as backpacks, paper, pencils and other grade appropriate items. Additionally it’s imperative that students are not hungry while in class. Without proper nutrition students cannot concentrate and learning is inhibited. Numerous studies have supported this fact. The National Education Administration (N.E.A) has amassed several studies in regards to hunger and student performance:
As a joint program, both Education and Social Action have teamed up to provide chapters in the Eastern Region a resource kit and S.O.P. in order to provide guidance for chapters in combating the double tragedy of lack of school supplies and classroom hunger.
Recognizing that many chapters have an existing backpack and school supply drive our intention is to encourage chapters to expand upon these current efforts. For example, providing supplies once a year is great however many young students often are rough on backpacks and many school supply lists are for the bare minimum level of supplies. Many times by January notebooks are ruined, glue sticks are gone and the student is right back at square one without the necessary tools to be successful.
Our goal through this program is to implement a sustained program that begins in August of each year and runs through January. This will accomplish several key objectives:
- Provide a viable framework for chapters to engage and Adopt-a-School
- Provide supplies for the beginning of the school year
- Provide additional supplies for the new year
- Target schools (and thus students) in Title I schools to augment the nutritional needs of these deserving students
Our plan includes fulfilling each of the four objectives above in a systemic approach. The project plans include this S.O.P and details on how to identify and reach out to the school in your service area. It is recommended that you perform your due diligence in order to identify a deserving school that also has teachers and administrators that are willing to work with the “Food 4 Thought” program. Without support internal to the school implementation and sustaining the effort will be impossible. Start with a Google search for “(insert state) title 1 schools”. This should bring up a listing of schools that have received Federal grants for Title 1 status. Also note that this information is more granular and tracked at the county level so you may have to perform additional research to identify a qualifying school in order to partner. Also most states have a state coordinator for the program. For example, in Maryland there is a “Program Improvement and Family Support Branch Division of Student, Family, and School Support” as a part of the Maryland State Department of Education. This role would be a perfect contact is you’re starting cold. Additionally you can go directly to a schools website that interests you. Most often they compile statistics that are published on the number of free and reduced lunch eligible students at that particular school. For maximum benefit, please target the schools with elevated levels for breakfast and lunch subsidies.
The next step is to host a school supply drive. Chapters do not have to collect thousands of items to be effective. Even 5 or 10 backpacks make a difference. In order to increase the number of items collected, start early and communicate. Write and visit (not just Email) local stores and potential sponsors. Whatever grade level you’re supporting pay special attention to the required school supply list for your local school. Local Boards of Education and many commercial sites will list the items needed for each grade. [i.e. # notebooks, folders, pencils, pens, crayons etc.]. Take advantage of tax free shopping in order to save money. For example,
During these periods there is no sales tax on many key items. Chapters may also want to partner with other local chapters that have current 501(c)3 status and use this tax exemption for purchase items at any time. Chapters must have the Federal and State tax exempt certificates and often times it’s easier to coordinate this effort with store managers before shopping so there’s no confusion at the checkout line. A great resource for buying backpacks at very reasonable prices and high quality can be found at http://www.wholesale-backpacks.com . We are familiar with chapters that have successfully used this site on numerous occasions and can vouch for the fair prices and high quality of their products.
The third step is to continue the supply drive during the months of September-December. One benefit is that most other organizations stop their efforts in September so Sigma will be one of the only groups pushing this initiative. This should make it easier to identify and collect items. Another way to market the drive is to ‘deconstruct’ each backpack. This makes it more affordable. For example a typical backpack fully loaded for a 5th grader may cost $xx. You can promote this as “Buy a Fully Loaded backpack” or “Help Fill a Backpack”. Our chapter has success when we list:
Help Fill a Backpack
- Backpack – $25.00
- Notebook – $3.98
- Paper – $1.99
- Composition Book – $.99
- Pack Pencils – $1.25
- Pack Pens – $2.99
We then request supporters to donate for the items they wish to buy. They can purchase a fully loaded backpack or buy paper and pens or other items to fill a backpack. Being flexible on the amount to donate helps attract more support.
Lastly, we are requesting chapters to target the Title 1 schools as they represent the areas that are most impacted by poverty and are in the most need for support. Even for chapters that are in affluent areas there are needs that may not be apparent on the surface. In addition to the school supplies we are asking chapters to augment their efforts and collect dry cereals (including oatmeal, grits), granola and breakfast bars. We are not attempting to collect full cans of non-perishable goods for this effort. Rather we are looking to collect easily carried food items that we can provide to students so that they can carry with them to ward off the hunger. For many students with subsidized meals, the food they get in school may be the only meal they eat. By adding an additional nutritious snack may just help them get to their next meal.