Ashley Staples

Board members Ashley Staples, Angela Woudenberg and Katherine Polachek.

 

Their mission is powerful, and for the past ten years, their cause has helped over 100,000 children and their families – 20,000 in the last year alone – in various school districts across Arizona. Feed Our Students USA aims “to bring community resources together to develop and implement a sustainable, nutritious food source for hungry families, one school district at a time.”

The organization helps families struggling to put food on their tables. They work with Scottsdale, Creighton, Balsz and Wilson School Districts and have recently added a Charter Schools Career Success program. 

The nonprofit started when FOSA founder Joni Sucato-Navarro was a volunteer reader for a third-grade class in the Wilson School District. 

“This little boy kept putting the treats I handed out after storytime in his backpack. After speaking to the teacher, I found out that he was taking the treat to his little brother at home because his family was having trouble putting food on the table,” Joni said. “I didn’t know ten years ago there was such a huge problem with food insecurities here in Arizona and across the USA.” 

And the problem persists. Navarro enlisted the help of a friend, and together, they helped the boy’s family (and ten other families) with groceries. Thus, FOSA was created. Their main goal is to provide emergency food boxes to working families who are having difficulties providing food. 

“We work directly with school personnel to ensure no child is coming to school hungry. Since school has started, we have increased our food distribution by 40 percent,” Joni said. “We stock our food pantry every two weeks, and by the end of the two weeks, our pantry is empty, which has never happened in the ten years we’ve been operating.”

FOSA holds a drive-through Thanksgiving event each year that includes turkeys and all the fixings. They provide 1,200 Thanksgiving meals to various school districts, and this year, they’re looking to up that number to 1,600. 

“Unfortunately, we are concerned about the price of turkeys and food. We have been quoted $3 a pound for each turkey from our wholesale vendor – that is almost triple what we paid last year,” Joni said. 

This year, they’re adding a fun twist for companies and businesses that want to participate in a turkey drive and donation. 

“We are making it a contest – the company or individual who collects the most turkeys/fixings will be provided lunch and space on our website for bragging rights,” Joni said. 

On November 21, the organization will then invite the person or company to help distribute turkeys and meals to Scottsdale Unified families. 

“We have many in our community struggling with food insecurities. We are feeding more school families this year than we have in the last nine years,” Joni said. 

FOSA has also recently partnered with Door Dash to deliver food to families without transportation in the Scottsdale and Creighton School Districts.

“Along with our amazing volunteers and donators, we’d like to thank Monte Vista Church, Christ Lutheran School, Boys Team Charity and Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts Arcadia Chapters for their help and support,” Joni said. 

feedingstudentsusa.org


HOW YOU CAN HELP:

• Those wanting to hold food and turkey drives should do so from now until November 19. 

• Items needed: frozen turkeys, canned vegetables, canned pumpkin, cranberry sauce, boxed stuffing and boxed potatoes.

• November 18 is the date FOSA will pick up food drive items and turkeys from businesses. Items can also be delivered to the pantry at 3313 N. 40th St. Phoenix (next to Monte Vista Church). Staff will be outside the pantry from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. to help unload. 

• Thanksgiving Box donations will be stored until distribution. FOSA will have bins outside the pantry door if anyone wants to leave goods, with staff checking every hour to ensure all food is safe and fresh.

• FOSA will distribute frozen turkeys and Thanksgiving Boxes to school families on November 21.

Contact Joni at jonisucato@gmail.com or 480-352-2370 for more.