TWIN FALLS, Idaho — The Twin Falls School District’s At Risk and Homeless Coordinator Becky Jaynes and Executive Director for the Education Foundation Stephanie Hudson are working with students and families facing economic and social hardships.
The district has over 350 homeless children, some living in motels, cars or other spaces.
“A lot of people are very nervous and don’t want to be identified as homeless or having needs and so I think we go with a lot of them unrecognized, there’s still a lot,” Jaynes said.
Around 60% of the students in the Twin Falls School District qualify for free and reduced lunches. For many students, that is their only meal for the day.
“Things definitely amped up with COVID, shifting jobs, people moving in, and people leaving. I think there was so much chaos that was happening that we definitely felt that there was this increased need for support,” Hudson said.
There are eleven food pantries stocked with items like canned foods, hygiene products and school supplies across the district.
However, school administrators realized that while the food pantries provide access to food, they don’t provide students the access to the fresh foods they need.
The Twin Falls School District Education Foundation received a grant from St. Luke’s to launch the program that would provide families access to grocery gift cards which would allow them to go to Grocery Outlet to purchase eggs, milk, cheese, meat, and products that can complete a full meal.
“Through this process we learned that there were a lot of people who weren't in assistance yet, but needed to be,” Hudson said. “These gift cards bridged the gap in time when we identified the family and student to when we could get them with the partner‘s to get their assistance.”
Magic Valley community partners have come together to help assist those in need.
Becky Jaynes said items like laundry detergent and toilet paper are essential and necessary to provide for the families in need.
“One thing that has really shot up this year is toilet paper,” Jaynes said. “For all the people that are living in the motel, it costs them $1 a roll, so we try to keep a large supply of that. They’re just amazed to know we have toilet paper because that’s such a need for them.”