By Victoria Cates, Movement Maker Tribe Editorial Team

Food Empowers Students

Deanna Schobey has always loved service. As the woman in charge of Bridge Bites Austin, and a #MovementMaker, she is helping elementary, middle, and high school students have a meal, and learn proper leadership skills.

From League to Leader

Deanna Schobey bridges the gap for students in need

Deanna is a member of the Junior League of Austin and has been apart of servicing her community for years. About five or six years ago, she wrote a grant to a foundation. The grant manager really wanted a weekend food program, in Austin, that would put food directly into the hands of kids. She remembered Deanna and knew she would be a perfect fit for the position. She called her to see if she would be interested in taking it on. “I felt if someone was willing to give a food program money, which was the harder part, that at the very least I could do the work,” said Deanna. 

Deanna has worked with many schools systems in Austin. She knew this was something she needed to be doing, and created the name Bridge Bites Austin. “I thought bites would be appropriate because we aren’t giving away buffets of food, and bridge because we are bridging the gap.”

She began her work in the hardest place, middle school. People’s advice to her was to start with elementary students because they are cute and people will want to give money. “I happen to like working with middle school, not many people do. It is a tricky time because they are not in high school and the aren’t yet old enough to get a job. So these kids that are doing without can’t really help themselves in any way. So I have a heart for that.”  The students decided to call their program the “Bistro.”

Bridge Bites Austin provides nourishment directly into the hands of students, and is currently in three schools. Many students have food insecurity, which is anything from worrying about how to obtain food, compromising the quality and variety of food, reducing the quantities, skipping meals, or experiencing hunger. Unfortunately, their performance and behavior in school suffers. 

Choices are Freedom

“Students are able to select the menu items they would like to receive in their bag- having choices is SO empowering! The kids who benefit often have no choices about what they receive in any area of their lives, by providing choices we give them an opportunity to decide,” said Deanna. The program is fiscally responsible and there is overall zero waste. Through the school homepage, the students are able to go online and pick exactly what they want in there bags. They also select a comfortable pick up spot and remain anonymous.

Their goal is to have healthier children, reduce weekend hunger through food kits, improve attendance and learning in schools, and to collaborate with the community and students. They are currently in the works with setting up the high school program. 

Through their RISE program (Readying Innovative Social Entrepreneurs) students themselves, in middle and high school, are putting together the food kits and distributing it. They are coached to develop, run, and maintain the food distributions over the weekend, essentially creating great leaders. They learn anything from PR, finance, to actual logistics.

The overall goal of the program is to go in, be there leading the charts for the first year, which is what they did last year, and help them work out all the kinks. This year, they are really focusing on the kids that are a part of the leadership team. They are planning to have their first board with the eighth graders, who went through the program last year, which will include a president, vice president, etc. “The goal for years to come is to ultimately only have once a month leadership training and provide administrative and logistical support, so they can order food and we will get it to them.” 

Students in the program have been identified as at risk students. “This is something bigger than them, maybe for an hour twice a week, they are plugged into it. Their attendance and behavior has improved. It makes them feel good about what they are doing.”

How You Can Fuel Their Movement

Donations are needed to fuel their movement

You can get involved by volunteering, donating, and by being a part of the community that supports Bridge Bites Austin. They currently have a matching grant that will match anything anyone donates, which makes a huge impact. Within the community, they need people who are engaged and who want to volunteer, even if it is only once a month.

“Across the board, kids should never be hungry, and I think we can all agree on that. Our program canceled the gap for some kids that are chronically hungry and worried about food.”

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