SPRING HILL — If you are hoping to help someone this holiday season but only have a little to give, Shanika Figueroa, homeless student liaison for the Hernando County schools, and volunteer Debbie Valante hope you will consider donating a box of Cheerios, a jar of peanut butter or a six-pack of on-the-go applesauce to their Feed the School Kids project.
There are nine days this Christmas holiday break during which students who normally receive free breakfast and lunch at school might go without. It's those meals the duo is working to provide.
Figueroa and Valante met a few weeks ago when Valante had a vision: She wanted to deliver homemade meals — hot and ready to eat — to families in need on Thanksgiving Day.
Someone suggested she get in touch with Figueroa. She did, and the two got to work. With the help of numerous volunteers and donations, they provided meals to 44 homes.
Turkey, sides and pies were no sooner delivered when a volunteer asked, "What are we doing for Christmas?"
They discovered that many families had already connected with organizations for Christmas gifts. But nonperishable food would sure help, they said.
As the homeless student liaison, Figueroa works closely with the families of the 175 students currently on her list.
For those without other options, she and Valante plan to deliver boxes with food for nine breakfasts and nine lunches, enough to replace the meals the students would have received free at school.
Their wish list of items includes oatmeal, cereal bars, shelf-stable milk, canned pasta, Kraft Easy Mac, tuna, chicken or ham salad cups with crackers, peanut butter and jelly, fruit cups, granola bars, snack-size bags of pretzels and juice boxes.
Anything that's nonperishable and easy to prepare for breakfast or lunch would be greatly appreciated, Figueroa said.
Donations for Feed the School Kids will be accepted until Friday and can be dropped off at three locations around the county: Wiggle Worms Christian Learning Center, 7279 Pinehurst Drive, Spring Hill; Christian Church of the Wildwood, 10051 Country Road, north of Weeki Wachee; and the Hernando County School Board, 919 N Broad St., Brooksville.
Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.