Care Fair brings school readiness to St. Pete

By Jeffrey Zanker, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — The Junior League of St. Petersburg held their 22nd annual School Care Fair Saturday morning at the Community Health Centers of Pinellas at Johnnie Ruth Clarke.

Since 1997, the group has hosted the event every year to help local low-income families, and single parents provide their children with free supplies and services for the upcoming school year.

Many families came early that morning and were given medical exams, healthy meals and children books. The League estimated around 1,000 people were in attendance that morning, with 200 volunteers assisting.

Care Fair Produce

“This helps families on low income who can’t afford to buy stuff… Here, they can get the goods,” Lakeisha Wilson, a local resident, said about the fair.

Summer Jensen, president of the Junior League, said that the League’s focus was on the needs of parents taking care of their children. They emphasize literacy and health/nutrition as a vital development for student success.

“Our theme is school readiness for families and to have an encompassing access to resources,” Jensen stated. “We hope families will take advantages of all the resources here.”

The resources included medical screenings and physical exams by organizations such as Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the Glazer Foundation Vision Bus. Approximately 30 local social service providers came out to offer information and children programs.

This year, the League expanded their health/nutrition committee, the Kids in the Kitchen. Volunteers distributed around 260 free meals, which included fresh produce and a recipe. Sarah Thompson, who chairs the committee, commented that their purpose is to teach health and nutrition to children in the Pinellas County.

“We hope to encourage more health-eating habits in the area, especially children,” Thompson said.

According to the Juvenile Welfare Board, about half of the students in south St. Petersburg are eligible for free or reduced school lunches and an estimated 7,000 of the children are persistently hungry and lacking in food resources.

After the children took the available services, they were given a backpack filled with school supplies. Approximately 1,000 backpacks were distributed.

Another resident, Diamond Moore, found all the resources she needed for her child, who attends a local elementary school.

“We need all the help… to strive better,” Moore said.

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