MIDDLEBURG – Alicha Fox once stood at the beginning of the line at the Kitchen Shelves Food Bank at Wilkinson Junior High.
Now she’s greeting people at the end.
The mother of eight relied on the food giveaway to feed her family. The bags of tuna, mac-and-cheese, beans and cereal may have satisfied her very basic needs, it was enough to sustain an existence until she could find a better way.
She was so grateful, she’s one of the program’s many volunteers.
“My family fell into a serious crisis,” Fox said. “We were in trouble, but they [Community Partnership School’s Farm Share Food Giveaway Program] helped. They were there when I didn’t have anyone else. They’ve became family. They’ve helped me, so I will always do what I can to help them out.”
The giveaways are at Wilkinson on Tuesdays (9 a.m.-noon) and Thursdays (4 p.m.-7 p.m.). Families in need are asked to fill out a menu form in advance, and those orders are filled in time for pickup at the school.
More than 50 families were served in the first hour last Tuesday, CPS Family and Community Engagement Coordinator Kayla Flores said.
Wilkinson was picked because it was centrally located in the county, Flores said. She hopes to expand the program to other schools.
“We serve Clay County, not just Wilkinson,” she said.
The county’s school district created Community Partnership School a year ago. The program allows core partners to collaborate with local nonprofits, businesses, and the faith-based organizations to bring services and solutions into the school. All partners will address key barriers to learning, including poverty, hunger, insufficient access to healthcare and mental health resources, and elevated rates of violence and crime, according to the school district.
Wilkinson was selected because nearly half of the student population qualifies for free lunch programs. The school’s surrounding neighborhoods have a 16.85% poverty rate, compared to the state rate of 11.7%. Additionally, the local unemployment rate of 7% percent is almost double the state's average of 3.6%, according to CCSD.
With the help of CPS, Fox hopes to complete her GED so she can be hired as a bus driver for the district.
The work truly is a labor of love. Since students are enjoying their summer break, the school district turned the air conditioning off in its empty classrooms. Volunteers certainly earn a lot of sweat equity to complete hours of stacking, packing and delivering food.
Menus often change, especially as fruits and vegetables are in and out of season. Last Tuesday’s offerings included: fresh chicken breasts, eggs and carrots, canned tuna, pork, corn, green beans, collard greens and chickpeas, spaghetti and egg noodles, dehydrated potatoes, rice, mac-n-cheese, Cheerios, brown sugar oatmeal, dried cranberries, applesauce and figs. Each order is limited to two starches, two vegetables and any other four items.
Fox keeps track of the paperwork.
Other CPS officials, including director Summer Burrell, wellness director Casey Wiggins and Assistant Superintendent Michael McAuley, worked the food lines at Wilkinson Tuesday.
“They are honestly helping,” Fox said. “That’s why I came back. Family helps one another out.”
For a complete list of local non-profits, visit https://www.claytodayonline.com/stories/contact-information-for-clay-county-non-profit-organizations.