Stack-The-Snacks: A JFK Initiative

This blog post was written by Hannah Belayachi, Director of Public Relations, and edited by Meghana Bharadwaj, JFK’s Executive Director.

Students of Lafayette High School taking part in the greenhouse

In Spring of 2017, Just For Kidz Cornell received a grant from the Cornell Community Partnership Funding Board to build a community action project. With it, we launched Stack the Snacks, a program that aims to address child food insecurity. In Ithaca, we partnered with the Beverly J. Martin Elementary School, a public school with 78% of students at or below the poverty line and whose students faced food insecurity concerns, to build in-class room food pantries with healthy and nutritious breakfast snack items. Given the positive feedback from this pilot program, we have worked extensively this past year to bring this program to our home chapter, St. Louis.

With a few new exciting announcements and developments, Pranav Vasishta, the St. Louis Chapter Director, shares more about their exciting launch of Stack the Snacks in St. Louis, through Lafayette High School, where most of the the St. Louis chapter members attend school.

“What happened was that the school had built a greenhouse about three years ago, and it remained unused for about one or two years until we decided that it was time we used it for something good, something charitable,” Vasishta said.

Working with Just for Kidz, Vasishta began the process for greenhouse ownership.

“We had to jump through a lot of hoops; we had to write some proposals to take over the greenhouse, but in February we finally got permission to take over the greenhouse,” Vasishta said.

With ownership of the greenhouse, the real work began, and planning for the project took about five months. Additionally, the greenhouse needed to be cleaned and refurbished, as most of the systems within it had remained relatively unused and outdated. Alongside planning, JFK began to look for sponsors to help with getting the project off the ground.

“Dr. Kendall Brune, one of our community partners and Advisory Board members, helped us find sponsors,” Vasishta said. Brune helped connect Just For Kidz to Home Depot in Ellisville, MO, which decided to sponsor the seeds, trays, and tools to kickstart the greenhouse.

“Our school sponsor, Rebecca Lawrence, knew about hydroponic gardening, which is using water and water minerals to grow the produce, and she helped us operate the greenhouse. By August, we had formulated a solid plan as to what we wanted for Stack the Snacks,” Vasishta said.

The goal is for Just for Kidz St. Louis to grow fresh vegetables for local school districts’ Got your Back backpack program, which serve homeless students and students who live at or below the poverty line through weekly backpack supplies of food, water, and other items to supplement their needs.

By August, the plants had sprouted and ranged in variety, from lettuce to banana peppers, jalapeños, green peas, cabbage and zucchini. Throughout the summer and into this fall, the Just For Kidz national team actively working on developing partnerships with schools and community organizations focused on food insecurity to focus on the implementation and logistics of the backpack program, whilst the JFK St. Louis team has focused on cultivating the greenhouse itself. While we are partnering with local food pantries, banks, and our community partner, The Wesley House Association, to find the best way to get these fresh produce to families and children in need.

We are so grateful to our donors, supporters, Board of Directors, community partners and sponsors, and the community at large for their incredible support in launching Stack the Snacks ™ in St. Louis and we’d like to take this time to thank them and congratulate the Just For Kidz St. Louis Team on this great beginning. We are so excited to share our progress with you as it develops! Sign up for our mailing list updates at www.jfkorg.org and follow us social media for more updates!