Texas high school opens grocery store for students, families — and it accepts good deeds as payment

The grocery store at Linda Tutt High School in Sanger, Texas, is entirely student-run. (Photo credit: Anthony Love)

A high school in Texas has opened a student-run grocery store, providing food and other necessities to students, staff and their families in need amid the coronavirus pandemic — while providing kids with essential job skills. 

The grocery store at Linda Tutt High School doesn’t accept cash. It operates on a point system, where students can earn points for positive office referrals, cleaning around the school building and other good deeds.

“It’s not something that you see every day in a school building,” said school principal Anthony Love. “I think a big part of it is about empowering our students, because many of them come from low socioeconomic families that need just a little extra support with food.”

The store is the result of combined efforts from the local nonprofit First Refuge Ministries, Albertsons grocery store, and Texas Health Resources. Love said he was approached by Paul Juarez, executive director of First Refuge Ministries, and Dr. Ann Hughes, the director of student intervention for Sanger Independent School District.

“They approached me about a grant that they wanted to apply for through Texas Health Resources, about possibly putting a grocery store inside a school,” Love explained. 

The store, which aims to address food insecurities for students and others in the community during the ongoing pandemic, is open Monday through Wednesday for students and staff within the school district.

On Tuesday evenings, the public can utilize the grocery store via curbside pickup with the help of volunteers. The amount of family members in the household determines the amount of points they receive to shop the store, which individuals can then use to get groceries or supplies for home.

The school also partners on Fridays with the BackPack Program, a program in cities across the country providing food for children on the weekends. “Partnering with them, we’re able to provide additional food and supplies that the families may need,” Love explained.

Students entirely run the store, doing everything from keeping shelves stocked, to keeping tracking of inventory to managing the point system. 

“I think the most exciting part of it is just teaching our kids job skills that they can carry with them as they graduate high school and move on into the world,” Love added. “Students are really the key piece to it.”

This is Love’s second year as principal at the school, located about 60 miles northwest of Dallas. The school gives students the option of either in-person or virtual instruction this year due to the pandemic, though Love estimated that roughly 90% are currently in-person.

This story was reported from Cincinnati.