Education: Communities in Schools/Helping Hands Ending Hunger open food pantry at Coosa Middle School.

Education: Communities in Schools/Helping Hands Ending Hunger open food pantry at Coosa Middle School.

 

From a media release: Earlier this month, Communities in Schools of Rome-Floyd County Executive Director Gregory Wooten stood in a small room at Coosa Middle School, shoulder to shoulder with a group of community partners. In that room were partners from the school, CIS, Floyd County Schools Central Office and nonprofit Helping Hands Ending Hunger were celebrating the start of a well-stocked food pantry at the school.

Towering shelves packed with canned vegetables, pasta, and rice lined the room, accompanied by a freezer full of whole hens, fish sticks and turkey breasts. The CMS pantry was even complete with a refrigerator stocked with sweet treats for families to bake, as well as some gluten free options for meals.

The established food pantry began with the identification of a need. In place to assess the needs of students at CMS are School Counselor Nikki Reed and CIS Site Coordinator Emanuel Woods. Reed said no time was wasted once the need was recognized.

Principal Joseph Pethel “was gracious enough to prepare this room for the pantry,” she explained. “Once the partnership was put into place, everything seemed to happen so fast. Mr. Wooten purchased the freezer and the refrigerator for us; if we didn’t have those items, we wouldn’t be able to do this.”

“I just think it’s really important for the students to have mentorship, but also just a loving adult in their life that really cares about them,” Woods said. “Some of these kids come to school hungry. It’s a big part of their educational experience for these kids to come in full, healthy, and ready to learn. If they’re distracted by lack of nutrition, then that’s going to be a problem for them as they learn. I’m glad that we have this food pantry here and I can’t wait to see how many kids it impacts.”

Carla and Sophie Harward, co-founders of Helping Hands Ending Hunger, a not-for-profit organization partnering with schools and food banks to work against food insecurity, reduce food waste, and invest in education equity, said that the organization’s role is to act as a coordinator between all the community partners and the schools to develop a sustainable program.

Just in time for the holidays, when students are away from school resources, Carla said that this pantry was part of Helping Hands’ Christmas outreach.

“This food comes from a partnership we have with the Atlanta Community Food Bank,” Carla explained, “and we’re able to make large orders every month to send out to our participating schools.”

“The foundation of our program is reducing waste in the schools,” she continued. “So, we start a program with collecting the uneaten prepackaged food items from school meals. That will kick off in January, and that will be a key role that the students are able to play. They will actually be learning that food isn’t trash and that they can help their fellow students and their families with this very food that was thrown into landfills before.”

Pethel stressed that the food in the CMS pantry is not simply easy-to-prepare processed foods, but rather wholesome and healthy meals to nourish families. “I envision our kids sitting together at a dinner table with their family enjoying that face-to-face time together,” he smiled.

“We were able to get our students involved as well,” Pethel said. “Ms. Reed does a great job counseling our students and finding opportunities for them to help and serve as well.

He explained that the CMS Eagle Ambassadors offer helping hands and young compassionate hearts as they help stock the pantry and pack the bags.

“A program like this allows our students to get the opportunity to lead and that’s a great opportunity for us,” Pethel added.

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