This holiday season, parents in New Haven Public Schools are supporting low-income families through a gift card fundraiser.

The Citywide Parent Team, a parent advocacy organization created in 2008, announced the inaugural effort at a Oct. 22 Board of Education meeting and will start accepting donations on Nov. 12. According to leaders of the Citywide Parent Team, the group aims to serve as many families as possible. These families will be referred by educators, other parents in the district or the Integrated Wellness Group — a company that offers counseling services in New Haven public schools. A Dec. 20 holiday event will conclude the fundraiser.

“If kids are coming to school hungry, how can they really focus?” said Krystal Augustine, the president of the Citywide Parent Team. “We can turn a blind eye and say that’s not my kid, but you never know what someone is going through, and you don’t know their situation. It’s still a child, and it takes a village to raise a child. We decided, why don’t we try to give back and get the community involved to give back?”

Augustine said that the idea for the fundraiser originated out of her concern for parents who would need to take food provided at meetings home to their families. At the meetings, parents would complain that they — and their children — were hungry, Augustine added.

Vice President of the Citywide Parent Team Nijija-Ife Waters told the News that last year, there was one member of the group — who had children who attended New Haven Public Schools — who was living in a shelter without anyone’s knowledge.

“It blew our mind to know that we had a committed parent who rain or shine … would come to Citywide,” Waters said. “We realized we don’t really know how many people would get a meal just from our meetings. We decided, you know what, let’s adopt a family. Let’s see how many families we can adopt.”

In 2017, a federal census study estimated that over 26 percent of the New Haven population lived below the national poverty line. The median income of families in New Haven is $38,126 — a sharp decrease from the $62,450 statistic nationwide. Last year’s “Point in Time Count,” which estimates the number of homeless individuals at one point each year, concluded that 543 people in New Haven lived without a permanent home in 2017.

Last year, the New Haven Board of Education established the Food Service Task Force, which is made up of Board members, food justice advocates, parents and educators. In December, the Board also voted to expand the dinner program to seven schools, according to an article in the New Haven Independent. Students currently receive supper in the Roberto Clemente Leadership Academy, the Davis Academy Arts and Design Innovation Magnet School and the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School.

Waters, a member of the Food Service Task Force, said the task force has recently concentrated its efforts on creating more nutritious school meals. Augustine said that she would like to see more schools serving “good quality dinners” during the week and one day out of the weekend.

“I am going to let [the parents’] work speak for itself,” Darnell Goldson, president of the New Haven Board of Education, told the News when asked for comment.

According to Augustine, the Citywide Parent Team is accepting monetary donations, as well as gift cards. The group has already received donations from some churches and local nonprofit organizations and has been impressed by the widespread community support for their fundraiser.

In addition, Waters emphasized that, in their efforts, the organization does not want families to feel insulted or judged. The fundraiser is about making an effort to support one another as a “community,” she added.

“We are hoping that people really jump into this with us,” she said. “We really want to make sure that we can bless our families over the holidays.”

The Citywide Parent Team will be accepting donations until Dec. 6.

Carolyn Sacco | .