Monique Edwards is on a mission to end child hunger in schools.
That’s why the Federal Way resident started P’s Lunchbox, a service that aims to feed every hungry belly in the Federal Way school district.
“These kids are our future. If they are at school and they are not eating, then they’re angry, they’re confused, they’re agitated, they’re not going to get good grades, they’re not going to participate in sports and they’re not going to have a promising future,” Edwards said.
Her fire was ignited last year when her middle school son, Precious, came to her and asked for $10. Edwards was concerned and asked why he needed the money.
“Mom, I think my friend is not eating at school. He has all these excuses on why he can’t enter his pin number or he doesn’t have the balance, so I’ve been giving him my lunch,” Precious told his mother.
Edwards started with packing an extra lunch for Precious’ friend for the week. But the act initiated a conversation in her family that stirred something in Edwards.
All of her children who attend public schools said they were noticing peers who weren’t eating at school. What Edwards saw, she couldn’t unsee.
That’s when she started talking with school officials to understand why these students weren’t using free or reduced lunches, and why students were going hungry.
“Parents will not fill out the forms needed because they’re afraid of being deported or they can’t afford it,” she said. “They work a job, but they still can’t afford reduced lunch price, which can be $0.40 a day. So their kids unfortunately don’t get to eat.”
She started P’s Lunchbox by providing food items at Illahee Middle School through Communities in Schools. This year, she expanded it to Todd Beamer High School.
While she doesn’t seek to identify each student who isn’t able to afford lunch, Edwards said she has been able to connect with about 35 families who aren’t able to afford lunches.
Even after a full year of providing extra food for students, Edwards said her heart continues to break for those who aren’t able to have a full meal.
“I have 6-foot boys coming to get a granola bar. What’s that going to do for you? Absolutely nothing. Of course they want to play football, so they’re exhausting all of their energy on the field or on the court, and they have nothing to go home to. There are some kids who come just to eat, and they go home. It’s beyond sad,” she said.
With the holiday season fast approaching, Edward is asking the community to help.
“What we want to do is get enough donations so we don’t have to worry about being short on donations,” she said. “Right now everything is funded through me. I go out of my pocket, I go to Costco, and I buy the (items) and bring it to these schools. I ask for donations, people drop them off and I bring them to school so these kids will never have to worry about it.”
Edwards said she spends anywhere from $60 to $200 a week out of her own pocket.
She’s looking for the following donation items: bread, canned milk, cheese or peanut butter crackers, jerky, apple sauce, fruit cups, granola bars, singe-serving soups, ramen noodles, bottled water, canned tuna, bags of rice or beans, packaged nuts, dried fruits, pasta, spaghetti sauce, canned vegetables or fruit, chips, pretzels, boxed drinks or juices, pop tarts and oatmeal.
Edwards said she wants to feed the families who aren’t able to have a home-cooked meal this holiday season. Her family decided not to celebrate Christmas, but instead use their “money, effort and energy to giving back to these families.” They are expecting to cook meals for nearly 400 people.
Edwards is also looking for a space to cook meals for families during the holiday season.
If you are interested in donating items or getting more information about P’s Lunchbox, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“(Ending child hunger) is not going to happen overnight. But if people can come together, we can end this. We can do it. It’s going to make our kids really happy,” Edwards said.
Federal Way Public Schools also welcomes donations for student meals. The community can contribute by donating money. The donation goes toward paying off the outstanding school-lunch balance for students who are ineligible for USDA support. Checks can be made out to Federal Way Public Schools and mailed to Federal Way Public Schools, Attn: Sally McLean, 33330 8th Ave. S., Federal Way, WA 98003.