Delaware Public Media

Delaware stocks 45 school closets with free essentials for low-income students

Aug 24, 2017

Delaware kids living in poverty have a harder time getting through school. That’s why the state has created basic needs closets that students in 45 schools will be able to use. The closets will have free hygiene products, school supplies and clothes.

A 2015 report published by Wilmington Education Improvement Commission cites statistics on children in Delaware growing up below the poverty line. It notes that more than half of the state’s public school students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

Gov. John Carney said he wants every child to achieve their full potential. But he said children have to be ready to learn first. That means addressing kids’ basic needs - like having enough to eat, being able to brush their teeth and having a winter coat when it’s cold outside.

“Some of the biggest challenges come with the students that come to us with significant needs," he said. "We know that. Whatever those socio-economic and other needs. This is a way of addressing those.”

Delaware is partnering with the nonprofit First Book to stock the closets. The group gives books and learning material to programs and schools that serve low-income kids.

Carney said the First Book First State partnership is the first of its kind.

Kyle Zimmer, the founder of First Book said these closets are vital because when students’ basic needs are met, they do better in school.

“We have done a few closets in other states, but nothing like the comprehensive program in Delaware," she said. "I mean, this is really groundbreaking, this is an extraordinary effort.”

Last December, the nonprofit gave 40,000 books to educators and kids in Delaware.