TAMPA (FOX 13) - Schools teach problem solving everyday in the classroom, but one of the biggest problems facing some children is being solved before kids ever take their seats at Sergeant Paul R. Smith Middle School.
Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy Charity Authur said she realized kids were going hungry, and if students are hungry, they are not ready to learn.
"I really think that these kids need to know that when they are here. We are in it to win it for them," deputy Authur said.
Katherine Rodriguez, a 14-year-old at the school, said she knows first hand, how Authur feels.
"She cares about us and she thinks about other children, and not just her own," Rodriguez said.
Deputy Authur set up a food bank in her school office.
"I brought the extra of the ketchup, cereal boxes, and all that stuff that I had extra of and brought it here and I started giving it to some of the students," Deputy Authur said.
Then parents, teachers, and students helped grow her project. She now has a room filled with thousands of canned goods, clothes, and personal hygiene products.
The grassroots undertaking now helps 20 families every month with food, clothing and other essentials.
Karen Fedkrow is a volunteer for the Parent Teacher Student Association.
"It's really important to help them because they are trying to provide a better life for themselves and their kids," Fedkrow explained of the families who benefit from the bank.
Rodriguez said those basic necessities help her have a normal life.
"It gave me food and it gave me clothes that I could wear so that I could go to school and function right," she explained.
Students who don't directly benefit from the bank are learning valuable lessons from the program, too.
"I think its pretty cool because it helps others and you don't get to do that a lot," student Colby Smith said.
"If I don't need it, I can just give it to somebody else because I don't have to waste anything when there are other kids out there," Rodriguez said.
Deputy Authur's goal is to bring the school and community closer together.
"When you are hungry, you're thinking about where your next meal is coming from. You're not thinking about, 'I have a math test tomorrow,'" Deputy Authur said.