Cash-Free Grocery Store at School Takes Payment in Points and Good Deeds

A grocery store at the Linda Tutt High School campus is helping feed students while giving them on-the-job training

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School and groceries are a one-stop-shop for students for the 50 kindergarten through 12th-grade students enrolled in the alternative school on the Linda Tutt High School campus in Sanger.

"This is a dream come true," Sanger ISD Director of Student Intervention Dr. Ann Hughes said of the on-site grocery store. "I've been frustrated that a lot of the students are hungry. A lot of the students don't have their basic needs met for a variety of reasons, and if they are hungry, they can't learn."

Hughes believes the store is a first-of-its-kind on a school campus. It is set up like a real grocery store, with shelving, a refrigerated section, and carts to fill.

"The students walk around with a shopping cart like a regular store," Hughes said. "They collect what their family needs, not that they just get what we give them."

The seed money to open the store came from a grant from Texas Health Resources, which identified Sanger as a food-insecure area. Instead of paying for groceries, students are given points each week. They can get bonus points through good deeds, such as helping another student.

"You do a good deed, and you get something in return," Preston Westbrook said. Westbrook is an 11th-grader who serves as the store's assistant manager. "It makes me feel better that they're feeling good and not having the life struggles trying to figure out where they're gonna get their food, or money to be able to do this."

The grocery store is stocked through donations from Albertsons, First Refuge Ministries, and First Baptist Church. Students operate and manage the store.

"It gives them a sense of ownership, connects them to the school, and they feel like they're contributing," Hughes said. "Mostly, it's a feeling of pride. The feeling of I'm doing something to make the world a better place."

This week the store started opening up to the community on Tuesday nights. Next Tuesday, they will give away turkeys and hams for Christmas.

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