When Sam Houston State University alumna and Huntsville Intermediate teacher, Amanda Garcia realized she had a group of young students struggling with basic food and hygiene needs, she called on the local community for help. In true Bearkat fashion, the SHSU community answered the call.
Community members often hear stories of teachers taking from their own pocketbooks to transform their classrooms each year into educational wonderlands for their students. What isn’t heard about as frequently are the extra efforts teachers take to support students beyond their educational needs.
At Huntsville Intermediate, what started as a small project to source basic food and hygiene products for local students, turned into the creation of a new outreach endeavor.
Since August 2020, Buzzy’s Bin has become a welcome resource to students in need. The service offers basic necessities, but also, a few fun extras to provide a bit of normalcy in a time when the world seems anything but normal. From holding competitive teacher scavenger hunts, organizing local neighborhood food drives, utilizing resources like DonorsChoose.org, and spreading the word through social media, educators and staff at Huntsville Intermediate have been able to slowly collect items to launch and maintain the new initiative.
It was through these efforts that Sam Houston State University students, operating the Food Pantry at SHSU in the College of Health Sciences, were inspired to join in and fill a gap in resources by donating 1000 backpacks and 200 reusable water bottles to support Buzzy’s Bin.
“A lot of kids struggle with extra things needed, yes toothpaste and brushes, but access to things like dental floss as well. It’s a big deal. There is also a need for feminine hygiene products, these are 12 and 13-year-old students. We want to make sure we are able to provide these extra things to make them feel more comfortable in class, so they can learn,” said Stacy Godby, sixth grade assistant principal.
When the students with the Food Pantry at SHSU reached out to Huntsville Intermediate staff to learn how to help, the staff’s immediate response was—bags.
“We were sending kids home with whatever fit in their backpacks and some of them didn’t even have those. With the donation of backpacks to every student, now no one will be singled out. They can have assistance without any stigma,” Godby said.
According to Racheal Branch, principal of Huntsville Intermediate, approximately 70% of their students are on free and reduced lunch. She said the new outreach program has provided a way for staff to identify those in need of help by discretely filling their backpacks with supplies.
“Buzzy’s Bin provides social and emotional support to students that lack resources or help at home needed to be successful in the classroom,” Branch said. “When I see students who don’t have things like deodorant, they come in and they are distraught. Their peers are bothering them about it. They tell you, ‘my parents are struggling and don’t have certain items, especially with COVID.’”
While providing supplies for Buzzy’s Bin, student workers from the SHSU Food Pantry were able to take a tour and meet with sixth grade students who also played a role in stocking the bin with items.
“Seeing younger generations put effort into Buzzy's Bin is heart-warming! I like how the kids at Huntsville Intermediate are helping their peers with needed items that make kids successful both academically and socially,” said Jesus Martinez, SHSU Food Pantry student worker. “This is a good initiative to make the students aware of real-life problems that not only college students face but kids their age as well.”
Rod Runyan, dean of the College of Health Sciences, is proud to see the efforts SHSU students in his college have made to connect with a real community need and support others beyond campus.
“We are thrilled that the SHSU Food Pantry and Huntsville Intermediate are able to partner on this effort. Besides the near-term benefits to these young students, we hope this is the start of a long-term connection between them and the College of Health Sciences,” Runyan said. “If this convinces some of them to become Bearkats six years from now, that is even better.”
Items need for Buzzy’s Bin supply includes: Nonperishable food items, ethnic hair products, toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental floss, ponytail holders, hair clips, socks, underwear, sports bras, shampoos, feminine hygiene and reusable water bottles,
To support Buzzy’s Bin contact Huntsville Elementary at 936-435-6500 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To support the Food Pantry at SHSU please visit: www.shsu.edu/academics/health-sciences/food-pantry/support.