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Seattle schools tap Amazon grant to give grocery cards to families in need

Seattle Public Schools
Genesee Hill Elementary is one of the schools that's used money donated by Amazon to provide grocery gift cards to families before the storm hit.

About a third of students in the Seattle school district qualify for subsidized meals. School has been closed so far this week as well as part of last week due to the snow, and that means some kids may not be getting as much to eat as they usually would.

The nonprofit group Alliance for Education has been administering a $2 million grant from Amazon, announced last fall, to help cover basic needs of school kids. So far, 21 schools have tapped the Right Now Needs Fund, with $36,000 disbursed since it began giving out money in December, said Lisa Chick, president of the Alliance.

The biggest wave of assistance came in the past week, Chick said — 20 percent of the money given out since the fund's creation was disbursed just as the winter storm hit. Schools that have made the recent requests include Bailey Gatzert and Genesee Hill elementary schools and Garfield High School.

“We saw a big surge in requests right before the storm related to the emergency needs of families,” Chick said. “What we found is that schools were asking for gift cards for groceries and other kinds of support that they might need during what would be a long break from resources that they might normally find at school.”

Chick said the Alliance for Education is still trying to get the word out to schools that the fund exists. So far, the money has been used for everything from buying a student new glasses, to paying off a child's school-lunch debt and buying a cot for a homeless student, she said.

Other schools that have used the Right Now Needs Fund so far include:

  • Aki Kurose Middle School
  • Chief Sealth High School
  • Fairmount Park Elementary School
  • Franklin High School
  • Hamilton International Middle School
  • Hawthorne Elementary School
  • Ingraham High School
  • Interagency Academy
  • John Rogers Elementary School
  • Jane Addams Middle School
  • Leschi Elementary School
  • Mercer Middle School
  • Robert Eagle Staff Middle School
  • South Shore K-8
  • Viewlands Elementary School
  • West Seattle Elementary School
  • Whitman Middle School
  • Wing Luke Elementary School

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.