Influx of food donations helps El Dorado County school students in need

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EL DORADO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) -- Donations to Union Mine High School's food closet mean that over two dozen students who need off-campus meals will be able to receive some.

And it comes at a good time -- the county’s schools have a three-day weekend approaching.

A project of the school's Advancement Via Individual Determination class, the food distribution has grown steadily since it began funding meals during spring break four years ago.

But about two weeks ago, the program was running low on food.

"You may have free reduced lunch at school but, like, not know if you're going to have dinner that night," said AVID senior Savanna Wright.

The class was able to donate 27 bags of food to students who make requests anonymously and whose identities are protected.

A social media post from Nikki Gardea of Mj's Project helped spread the word of the shortage.

She and her then 14-year-old daughter started Mj's Project a year ago to provide emergency feminine hygiene products and clothes to high school girls. But as she distributed the items to schools in El Dorado County, she discovered that students needed food as well.

"We didn't realize there was a true crisis until we couldn't keep the closets full at the schools," said Gardea.

She now distributes food to several school campuses, usually, food that is easily warmed if students are homeless or have limited cooking capability in their living situations.

Gardea said many of the people she connects with on social media are surprised that there is a need for food among students in an area where there are upscale homes, as well as rural communities.

"People are really surprised that there is a need and then they say, 'Wait, what? What are you talking about?’" said Gardea.

She and the AVID program are happy that donations picked up after a social media post.

The class is now exploring more ways to reach out to churches, clubs and businesses to generate more donations.

People interested in helping can contact Union Mine High School or go to Mj's Project Facebook page.

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