Kingston Students and Staff Give Back to the Community
KCSD Food Services Director Dave Dunn, along with ten Kingston High School Life Skills students, is preparing a holiday feast for 60 District families this month. Chef Dunn and the students have been busy packing 50-pound boxes with everything needed to enjoy a holiday meal.
The boxes include turkeys, side dishes, stuffing, gravy, green beans, breakfast foods, and snacks. Also included is a variety of fresh, locally grown winter vegetables donated by the Hudson Valley Farm Hub. In addition to the Thanksgiving meal box, families who participate in the school’s Backpack Program will also receive a food box to supplement meals over the school break. Backpack food programs offer families free groceries for weekends and school breaks which include healthy, easy-to-prepare food for kid-friendly meals.
Every week throughout the school year, Kingston High School Special Education teachers Donna Wolf and Julie Machung work with students in their Life Skills and vocational classes to pack bags for the Backpack Program. The tasks the students take on help to develop life and job skills. “All my hard work pays off by giving the kids food,” said Garrett, a student at Kingston High School who helps with the program. “I learn how to organize different kinds of food, create stations, and get the food off to the kids.”
“It is brilliant that we are helping these students and families,” said his classmate, Nick. “It feels like I am doing a good deed by doing this. I got pretty good at bagging and helping everyone out doing their jobs. I can't wait to help out more students and families. I like to make people happy and see smiles on everyone's faces.”
Wolf and Machung said their students have enthusiasm for not only the tasks, but also the bigger framework of its purpose. “We see a huge difference in their skills from last year,” said Wolf. “They know exactly what has to be done. The job skills are important because we want them to be successful after high school.”
The weekly activity has increased the students’ awareness of hardships such as homelessness, poverty, unemployment, lack of transportation, and the rise in food prices. The teachers work with the students to create personal connections to the initiative. “Some students have talked about their own frustrations when running out of available snacks or recalled financially challenging times in their households that resulted in less food at home,” said Machung. “We are doing this to increase their awareness of what’s happening in our world and how many people are in need.”
Chef Dunn is happy to help District families in need during the holidays and throughout the school year. “Kingston had eight to ten feeding and meal sites in coordination with other school programs. I am currently sourcing food and funding to supply additional holiday meals and supplemental food to help sustain families in need for the winter and spring breaks while the schools are closed,” he said.
Students and families who may be in need of supplemental food from the Backpack Program and the holiday meal boxes are identified by school social workers and staff. Both the dignity and privacy of the recipients are important facets of the program. To offer donations or if you know of a family who needs meal support, please contact Chef Dunn at email@example.com.