Program helps deliver food to homeless students during spring and winter breaks.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Buff Holtman checks tags on outgoing grocery bags that will be delivered to homeless students at Beaverton High School over Spring Break.Educators and health care professionals agree: students can't be expected to do their best at school if they aren't fed. And for the Beaverton School District, that's a big problem.

A 2017 study showed that Beaverton had the highest number of homeless students in the state, at 1,522.

Thanks to federal programs, those students and many others — 36.6 percent of the district's student population — receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year and also during summer break.

But not during spring and winter breaks. This year, spring break runs from March 26 to 30.

Volunteer Nancy Winston at Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ saw the need three years ago while talking to Beaverton High School Principal Anne Erwin.

"She was worried about what her homeless students ate when school meal programs are closed during winter and spring break," Winston said. "Bethel Congregational decided to take on this project, relying on help from others."

For spring break 2018, Beaverton High School has identified 110 students who are currently homeless, Winston said. That's up from 92 students in December 2017.

"Some are doubled up with other families, and some are in motels or unsheltered," she said. "These homeless students depend on the meals they receive at BHS each school day, but the BHS cafeteria is closed for nine days during Spring Break."

Bethel, in partnership with Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Jesuit High School alumni, St. Cecelia Church and others, spent part of this week delivering nine days worth of food to the 110 homeless students at Beaverton High.

Volunteers packed the food at Bethel before making the deliveries.

Each student also receives a canvas sling bag stitched out of painter's canvas made by a local stitching group and a gift card for fresh food donated by Jesuit High alumni. The bags include toiletry kits.

"So many volunteers come together for this," Winston said. "It's always just amazing to see what people will do for each other in this community."

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