The COVID-19 pandemic has created a year in which hardships have been aplenty for so many, but one Texas high school has stepped up to not only help families in need, but also to encourage acts of service -- something we could all probably use a little more of.
Linda Tutt High School in Sanger, Texas, just northwest of Dallas, recently opened a grocery store inside the school, and instead of using a card or cash to buy the groceries, the LTHS grocery store is taking forms of payment in good deeds -- no money whatsoever is exchanged.
Clearly this store is a little different, seeing as how it’s inside a school, but it’s also unique in that it is a student-run grocery store. And students can shop using points they’ve received from doing good, a Dallas-Fort Worth news station reported.
Students can earn the points to spend on the grocery store items by having outstanding performances in school, doing good deeds or excelling in class.
“One thing we really push for is students earning points by going above and beyond in the classroom or doing something kind,” school principal Anthony Love said. “These are the things we celebrate, and we’ll call home and tell mom and dad their student got a positive office referral and they get a reward for that.”
“I like seeing their smiles, seeing how appreciative they are, and knowing that they are thankful that we’re doing something like this,” said Hunter Weertman, a 16-year-old junior who stocks shelves and takes inventory at the store, housed in an unused art room. The has been open since November 2020.
The store carries basic food items including milk, eggs, meat and produce, along with other necessities like toilet paper.
Residents who shop at the store are assigned a number of points -- the larger the family, the more points they receive and the more merchandise they can “buy.” There’s no in-person shopping because of the pandemic, so instead, they fill out a list and students bring the groceries to their cars.
Those residents, by the way, are students and staff within the district, and their family members.
Love told the Dallas-Fort Worth station that there are about 2,750 students enrolled in the district, and 43% of them are considered economically disadvantaged. About 130 families have used the store.
“About 3.6 percent of our students are considered homeless,” he said. “We thought it was important to support them and their families and make sure they had food on the table.”
The idea came from Paul Juarez, the executive director of First Refuge Ministries, a nonprofit that funds the project through a grant from the faith-based medical group Texas Health Resources. Juarez, who began to work as a package clerk at a grocery store at age 16 and moved up to management, said he has been getting calls from schools across the United States.
“I’ve been just talking to everybody, from Delaware and New York, New Jersey, Florida, all the way to Juneau, Alaska,” he said. “I probably talked to about 50 or 60 people that want to actually do this in their school districts.”
Love said school districts all around Texas have asked how to start a program like Tutt High School’s.
“It’s really exciting for us to know our little town is spreading good,” Love said. “We are a small school district, but we always try to teach our kids the importance of giving back to the community.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.