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Desert Ridge High Tailors Holiday Support for Local Families

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Franchesca Johnson with Packed FoodRather than the “one-size-fits-all” approach found at most food drives, Desert Ridge High School (DRHS) has adopted a personalized method of addressing food insecurity. The school reached out to students, staff, and administrators for assistance in pinpointing families facing meal-related hardships this holiday season. Ultimately. 15 families in need were identified, including 4 from feeder schools associated with DRHS. Between parent, student, and staff donations, the school was able to collect a variety of food items while raising $600 in the form of Walmart gift cards. The gift cards were then used to purchase a comprehensive list of tailored items for families to eat over the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Grocery items were hand-picked for specific families and their needs, which were then packaged for delivery. Rather than a “cookie-cutter” program where all families receive essentially the same items, Desert Ridge High’s approach tailors food packages to the unique dietary and allergenic needs of each individual family. Some packages were put together to feed a family of four with no dietary restrictions while others were assembled for a large family who eats gluten-free products. All too often, families facing food insecurity receive the same generic packages as every other family but are unable to eat the food due to dietary restrictions. Desert Ridge High School ensures that doesn’t happen.

DRHS Customized Food PackageThe products included in each food package were also not limited to a Thanksgiving meal. Rather, Desert Ridge High took a holistic approach to packing the food, considering each family’s needs for meals in addition to Thanksgiving dinner. Some packages included cereal while others included peanut butter and jelly alongside a loaf of bread so that each family had food for a variety of meals across multiple days.

As issues like the rise of inflation continue to impact families in the community, the need for support has increasingly grown. Community organizations that have worked with Desert Ridge High in the past are now challenged to navigate through this increased need for support, forcing the organizations to scale back their partnership with the school.

“That’s why we wanted to do a Thanksgiving drive. We want our school and our feeder schools to be sustainable in community support. At the end of the day, when all of the other resources are gone, we have to be able to say ‘What can we do to still support our families?’”, said Franchesca Johnson, LMSW, a Mental Health Counselor at Desert Ridge High School. "I love this part of the job and I love that we get the chance to take care of everybody that is here and beyond.”  

Desert Ridge High delivered the food packages directly to the family’s homes on the morning of November 21. The school plans to continue supporting its local families with future food drives. DRHS hopes to include each of its five feeder schools (Desert Ridge Junior High, Augusta Ranch Elementary, Boulder Creek Elementary, Canyon Rim Elementary, and Meridian Elementary) in its upcoming Christmas food drive. The Christmas food drive has already identified 35 families and is expected to support more.

Written by Tristan Chavez, Photo by Jonason Pauley