Teacher creates ‘Giving Closet’ to feed underprivileged students: ‘Their smiles are worth it’

Elise Solé
At Schorr Elementary School in Las Vegas, students don't have to go hungry. (Photo: Courtesy of Kristan Nigro)

A kindergarten teacher created a “Giving Closet” stocked with food and toiletries to help her low-income students.

Kristan Nigro, a kindergarten teacher at Schorr Elementary School in Las Vegas, Nevada started the project last year after noticing that a concerning number of students were in need. “Some kids wore the same outfit every day, or were homeless and living on the streets with their families,” Nigro, 34, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Others can’t pay their electricity bills.”

Schorr already worked with a program called Operation School Bell which provides new clothing and school supplies to underprivileged children, but Nigro wanted to do more. Clearing out a wardrobe closet in her classroom, the teacher filled it up with individually-packaged snacks, bottled water, underwear, socks, deodorant, and laundry detergent for kids to take as needed.

“I grew up in a small farming town outside of Buffalo, N.Y. and when my father was laid off from his job of 18 years, we almost lost our home,” Nigro explains to Yahoo Lifestyle. “I was 7-years-old and still recall that stress felt by my parents. I’m lucky to provide for my own son.”

Kindergarten teacher Kristan Nigro started a "Giving Closet" to make sure her students were clean and well-fed. (Photo: Courtesy of Kristan Nigro)

When Nigro moved to a new classroom this year, she was excited to find an even bigger space to expand her project, which she funds with grant money and crowd-funding. “Kids can choose what they need at any time,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “They come during school hours, or if they want to be discreet, wait until after class.” Nigro also puts together backpacks with goodies, if students want additional privacy.

According to Nigro, the Giving Closet now serves 606 children. “The snacks usually disappear quickly,” she says. “For some students, lunch is their last meal of the day.”

Students at Schorr can give back by depositing their unwanted packaged lunch items on a “Sharing Table.” And they all have permission to use the school’s washer and dryer (originally installed to serve the special-needs classrooms) and a private shower.

“The kids have so much appreciation — you can tell from their body language,” Nigro tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Their smiles are worth it.”

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