School & District Management

Donors Choose Helps Teachers Deliver Food, Clothing to Students in Need

By Brenda Iasevoli — February 13, 2017 2 min read
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It’s common knowledge that teachers spend their own money to buy classroom supplies, everything from paper and pencils to cleaning supplies. But a new survey shows they are also opening their wallets to take care of their students’ personal needs—clothing, combs, deodorant, toothpaste and other hygiene items, even food.

The education nonprofit, which connects teachers with people nationwide who are willing to pay for typical resources like books, computers and field trips, will now help teachers fill their requests for students’ more basic needs. launched the “student life essentials” program after conducting a survey in January of 2,000 teachers from the nation’s high-poverty schools about the challenge of providing for students’ basic needs. Of the teachers who participated in the survey, 84 percent had bought personal items for their students using their own money and 63 percent said they spend more than $100 each year.

These teachers reported benefits in the classroom. For example, 86 percent of them saw increased confidence and self-esteem in their students. Sixty-nine percent said their students were better able to focus on school work, and 43 percent noted fewer absences.

In the Teaching Now blog, Madeline Will reports on a bigger survey conducted by the education company Scholastic of 4,721 public school educators on how they use their own money to buy classroom resources as well as basics like food and clothing for their students. You can read about the results of that survey here.

Since the “life essentials” program officially launched, 200 requests have been fully funded. One of the yet unfulfilled requests comes from a Michigan high school teacher, who describes students walking to school in the bitter cold of the Upper Peninsula, near Lake Superior, without hats or gloves, because they can’t afford them. On her wish list are insulated waterproof gloves, winter hats, and thermal socks, at a total cost of $412. She is still $242 short. According to the website, the project will help 80 students.

A teacher of grades 3 through 5 requests help with putting together personal hygiene kits stocked with deodorant, facial cleanser, and laundry detergent. Other requests call for healthy snacks to help students concentrate in school, and meals for students to take home on the weekend, when they do not have access to school breakfast and lunch. is now piloting an effort to help teachers help themselves, according to the website. The project centers on professional development opportunities for improving skills and learning new ones. Teachers can request funding for books on classroom management, or on instructional strategies for, say, close-reading. They can also attend workshops and seminars that will help them to improve their practice. One part of the pilot aims to help middle and high school teachers incorporate computer science into their curriculum.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.