JACKSBORO, Tenn. — On most Fridays, Mount Paron Baptist Church delivers bags of food to students in need at Jacksboro Elementary School.

It's a vital source of food for some of the students. The nonprofit organization Feeding America estimates nearly 2,000 children in Campbell County are food insecure.

"We don't know what our students go home to," first-grade teacher Brittani Stooksbury said. "I want them to come to school knowing that we care about them and we love them."

Earlier in October, her colleague Brooke Goins was helping her students with a math worksheet when a student asked when the "food lady" was coming back.

Food Insecurity
Grace King

"I knew that it was a short week, so I wasn't sure. So I asked him what he was wanting and he was wanting the whole bag," Goins said. "It broke my heart, because I know he couldn’t do his work if he was hungry."

She knew she had to do something, so she texted her friends and let them know she was going to Walmart. They immediately chipped in and helped her buy the little boy SpaghettiOs, applesauce, Slim Jims and other snacks.

"Everybody pitched in," she said. "He held his hand up and said the ones with the little Os... I love those. They give me a warm belly and help me sleep." 

She posted the story on her Facebook page to thank the school for coming together to make sure her student didn't go hungry. As of that Friday night, it had been shared more than 13,000 times.

As of Oct. 23, it had more than 40,000 shares.

Brook Goins facebook post
Facebook

"We did not expect all that and everybody’s been offering to donate or to help in any way that they can," Stooksbury said. "That's really going to make a difference for our kids."

Stooksbury and Goins asked their principals if they could start a food pantry for all the Jacksboro Elementary students in need. 

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"They were absolutely on board with everything. They're like, 'Do whatever you need to do,'" Goins said. "So we have been working to get everything set up and we got our first donations [Friday]."

Goins said making sure her students don't go hungry isn't anything special; it's simply part of her job.

"It's not that we ever do it for praise. I mean, you just do it... you make sure they’re taken care of," she said. "We love them — all of them." 

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The post attracted the attention of many people in East Tennessee and elsewhere, from New York, California and Washington, bringing in more than 250 boxes of food, shelving and reaching more than $1,000 in total donations.

It even caught the eye of Jennifer Lopez. Yes -- J. Lo!

She said she, too, was brought to tears by the story, and decided to donate 365 days worth of meals to the school's food pantry.

"When we heard about the students and amazing teachers at Jacksboro Elementary in Tennessee, we knew we had to help. We heard teachers were helping students bring home food when they didn't have enough," she said.

"To those that have supported our school and community, whether it be through donations or volunteering, you have touched our hearts. For all you have done for our students, we will forever be grateful," Jacksboro Elementary School posted.