As the coronavirus pandemic stretches from weeks into months, with schools continuing to close their campuses to students, resources for free meals and other essential items may begin to stretch thin.
In response to that community need, the Pflugerville Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises funds to support PfISD’s educational goals, on April 9 launched a new initiative to raise $10,000 to provide meals and other essential items to district families in need.
“Many of our parents have lost their jobs or they’ve been furloughed, and this is on top of already living in sometimes low income situations,” said Marie Felan, executive director of the Pflugerville Education Foundation. “We just really want to make sure our district’s children are taken care of and basic needs are met so they can continue learning as best they can in this environment.”
The Pflugerville Education Foundation collaborated with partners from the Backpack Pfriends program, which provides free meals to district students on weekends and holidays, to launch Pfund PfISD Pfamilies Partners, according to an April 9 news release.
The new partnership kicked off a fundraising campaign for the Pflugerville community to raise $10,000 to match the Pflugerville Education Foundation’s grant funds.
Felan said the community has already donated $4,000 to the fund since April 9.
Leaders in the Pflugerville Education Foundation decided to launch this effort after hearing from PfISD officials that supplies were running low for the Backpack Pfriends program, Felan said.
According to Felan, the Pflugerville Education Foundation board was told by PfISD Superintendent Douglas Killian that the Backpack Pfriends program only has enough materials to last until April 16.
Numbers from the Texas Education Agency show that more than 12,000 PfISD students qualified for free or reduced lunch at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year. That accounted for 48.7% of the district’s enrolled student body, according to TEA data.
“[PfISD is] fielding a lot of phone calls from families where not only the children need food, but the whole family is struggling with food insecurity,” Felan said.
Funds and materials donated to the Pfund PfISD Pfamilies Partners will go towards purchasing meals through food wholesale dealers.
The organization will also purchase essential items for which district families have expressed need. According to Felan, the district has had families reach out for help securing diapers, wipes, hygiene products and formula.
Other families, Felan said, have said they are experiencing difficulty paying for utilities, internet service bills and cell phone service bills due to unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Pflugerville Education Foundation will work alongside the PfISD Social Work Department to identify the needs of low income district families and to distribute meals, essential items and educational materials to households in need.
Felan said residents can donate money, selected items and volunteer hours to the Pfund PfISD Pfamilies Partners during this drive.
“There are many ways the community can help. Some folks want to give funding and that is wonderful. That is the best way to help,” Felan said.
Anyone looking to donate in-kind materials—nonperishable food and hygiene products, to name a couple—can find a list of acceptable donations on the Pflugerville Education Foundation’s website. The organization cannot store cold items at this time and can only accept nonperishable, shelf-stable food items.
Residents looking to volunteer their time to the organization can sign up to safely pack and distribute packages to families. Felan said the organization has volunteer opportunities that can be done remotely, as well.
While this community drive is ongoing, Felan told Community Impact Newspaper that the Pflugerville Education Foundation is looking for ways to utilize a portion of its budget to fill technology gaps among the district’s families.
As education has shifted online, many PfISD families have said they are struggling to find reliable access to technology and internet connectivity.
“There is a big need for technology. There is a gap [and] there is a disparity there,” Felan said. “Our district is not necessarily a one-to-one [district] where every child has an electronic device.”
In 2018, 93.8% of households in Pflugerville had access to broadband internet connections, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. In Austin, where many PfISD families live, that figure drops to 71.6%.
Felan said the Pflugerville Education Foundation is looking into securing additional mobile wifi hotspots, some of which are already in use by the school district. Felan said getting an additional 100 hotspots would cost the organization $23,000.
“We’re looking at directing some of our funds that we have in our budget to meet some of those technology needs,” Felan said.
Residents looking to contribute to the Pfund PfISD Pfamilies Partners community drive can find ways to donate on the Pflugerville Education Foundation’s website, located here.