How One Librarian Uses Food to Keep Kids Learning

“I always tell our kids that they are like cars, motorcycles or trucks,”says Theresa Mai, the librarian at Truscott Elementary in Loveland, Colorado. “We talk about their parents getting fuel for their car – how it can’t run without the right fuel. Their bodies are the same way. Food is their fuel and we have to keep them going so they can learn.”

Theresa Mai provides books, games, activities, and all kinds of resources from the First Book Marketplace for the students at her school. But without food, the kids don’t consume the basic calories they need to benefit from the resources she supplies.

Much of the non-perishable food the school receives from First Book is used as mid-day snacks to keep kids alert and engaged. Some is used after school to feed kids in Book Club, Garden Club or Running Club. Many of the snacks are just available for kids when they get hungry.

Theresa even uses the food as a learning tool. While reading stories about zoo animals, Theresa’s students play with animal crackers. They break them apart and combine the animal’s characteristics to inspire imaginative play, learning the benefits of different animals’ biological traits.

“I would combine any animal with a chicken because then my family could eat the eggs,” said one student. He then explained to Theresa that his family was out of money and almost out of food.

This isn’t an atypical experience for the students at Truscott. Because of this the school provides snacks to their students regardless of need or ability to pay. Many of their kids come to school without breakfast and don’t go home to a meal awaiting them. Others stuff their pockets with snacks to bring home to their siblings who don’t attend the school.

I am often in awe by how appreciative the kids are of food,“ explains Theresa. “Most of us have access to food 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But for those who do not have easy access to food, it is the kind of gift that lights up a child’s face.”

If you’re an educator or program leader serving children in need, you can find non-perishable food and other basic needs on the First Book Marketplace.