It all started with a simple request for snacks. The December holiday break was fast approaching — and at Greeleyville Elementary School in Greeleyville, South Carolina, where 100% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch, Principal Berlinda Mack was worried that her students would spend the holidays hungry.
In the Feeding America network of food banks, we know that even the smallest action can make a big difference. Food bank staff at Lowcountry Food Bank in Charleston, South Carolina, see this in the Greeleyville community. “Every adult in that community in some way, shape or form looks after the kids in that community and wants to make sure that they have what they need,” says Kara Moore, Lowcountry Food Bank child hunger program manager.
For roughly five years, Lowcountry Food Bank has been fighting child hunger with Greeleyville Elementary with child hunger programs including an afterschool meal program, a school pantry program and a summer mobile meals program. Making sure that students have enough to eat when school is out has been a constant challenge. So when Kara Moore received the request for holiday snacks, she knew that they had to do something special for the kids they were serving.
Working with their North Carolina neighbors, Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, Lowcountry Food Bank had an idea: an event the day before school lets out where kids and their parents can celebrate and have fun while they get set up for the break.
The first event took the form of an unforgettable Holiday Market before the winter break, complete with toys, clothes, fresh produce and a turkey for each family. Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina and Lowcountry Food Bank pulled the entire thing off as a surprise. The school staff was floored and happy tears flowed.
And last week, the day before Spring Break, Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina and Lowcountry Food Bank outdid themselves. Principal Mack gathered all the students together for another surprise. Each child was given a reusable shopping bag, and Principal Mack revealed that the grassy area outside the school had 5,000 Easter eggs (previously packed by senior volunteers in Charlotte) waiting for the kids. After the Easter egg hunt, each child received an Easter basket filled with egg dye, stuffed animals, healthy snacks and other goodies.
While the students were having fun, the parents were preparing for Spring Break by stocking up on critical grocery items. In honor of the launch of its annual Fight Hunger. Spark Change. campaign, Walmart provided all the produce for a farmer’s market-style distribution, supplying carrots, cantaloupes, zucchinis, potatoes and more — 15,000 pounds total. Local Walmart associates joined volunteers and food bankers in distributing the produce to excited parents. Each family could take as much produce as they wanted, as well as a ham and a bag of canned goods — so much food that volunteers had to help some families to their cars. And thanks to Walmart’s donation of produce, Lowcountry Food Bank now has the resources to supply 90,000 more meals to people in need. That day, kids went home happy and full, ready for a week of just being kids.
Greeleyville is just one town, Greeleyville Elementary just 300 kids. But we know that real impact is made community by community, child by child. By committing to making these families’ lives a little better — and a little more fun — food banks and our partners can spark enormous change.
Photo courtesy of Walmart.