Katelyn Carpenter, 17, of Crossville, Tennessee, a senior at Cumberland County High School, prepares care packages of canned and boxed meal items every weekend for more than 60 elementary school students who lack a reliable source of food at home. A few years ago, Katelyn ran into her former first-grade teacher, who was shopping for groceries for one of her students. The teacher told Katelyn that this was not uncommon; most elementary school teachers she knew had spent their own money to feed students. “I was shocked,” said Katelyn. “I had no idea that so many students in my community were affected by food scarcity.” After weeks of thinking about this and feeling guilty for enjoying dinner every night, she devised a plan to do something about it.
Katelyn asked the assistant principal of Martin Elementary School to estimate how many students didn’t have enough to eat at home, and upon hearing the answer, realized that she would need funding to address this need. So she made a presentation to her church’s finance committee, which agreed to contribute $1,500. She then had to figure out what food items would be the most nutritious and cost-effective, where to purchase them and how to package the items. She also placed donation bins in her church and gave congregation members lists of needed food products. Katelyn currently has more than 20 volunteers from her church helping her put together at least 55 care packages every week for Martin Elementary students. Katelyn’s church has since expanded its support for the school by providing classroom volunteers, sponsoring sports teams, and donating books and supplies.