In the spring of 2019, Marion and Walker County SNAP-Ed Educator Ginger Eatman saw a need for several school food banks in her area. Before her time as a SNAP-Ed educator, she was a substitute teacher in the Marion County School District in Alabama. She would routinely see food being sent home for children to fill a need in the home. She was consistently concerned about the possibility of food insecurity for students.
When she was hired as a SNAP-Ed educator, she worked with the Brilliant High School principal to identify ways to help with food insecurity. With the help of the principal and other stakeholders in the district, Eatman had the idea to have multiple food banks throughout many schools in her counties. However, she soon learned the students had their own ideas about how to help their fellow classmates.
“When it first started, I thought it would be great to form a club at each school and for them to all be the same,” Eatman said. “When I met with each group, they all had a different idea of how to make it work and it was welcomed.”
Now, all five of her county schools and the city school in Marion County either have active school food banks or are in the early stages of starting one.
School Food Banks
Several school food banks are extensions of other clubs. Hackleburg High School uses its family and consumer science class and its Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America program to run the bank. Phillips High School in Bear Creek participates in the school food bank with its elementary and high school Beta Club. Hamilton Middle School uses its student council. The Care Closet of the Winfield Journeys program revitalized the school food bank of Marion County High School to become a Kindness Club project. The recently-formed Good Samaritan Club operates the food bank at Brilliant School.
Eatman said the students are excited about the opportunity they have to help their peers but are also aware of the sensitive nature of the situation.
The Good Samaritan Club
The Good Samaritan Club started with the desire to run a food bank but had no place on its school campus to do it. However, they identified a former home economics building that had been vacant and used for storage as a possible spot. Eatman asked for volunteers to clean and transform the building for potential food bank space. Some 18 students showed up on a school holiday to help get the job done. After the initial cleanup day, the Good Samaritan Club members, with the help of several community volunteers, finished preparing the location.
It didn’t take long for the Good Samaritan Club to make its impact on the community. Eatman worked closely with the club members and sponsors to make this impact. By Thanksgiving in 2019, the club compiled enough food to deliver holiday meals for 15 families throughout the community. Families were chosen through the McKinney Vento Program, which assists children who are homeless or have inconsistent living options.
The meals provided to families didn’t only provide them a Thanksgiving dinner. It sustained them throughout the entire week and continued the effort throughout the holiday season. In all, the club distributed about 3,700 pounds of food to families. Foods included fresh fruits and vegetables and non-perishable foods with lower sugar and sodium. The food in the boxes was consistent with SNAP-Ed’s Good Choice guidance. This focuses on promoting healthy food choices in retail and charitable food donation settings.
According to Eatman, the Good Samaritan Club partnered with the Kindness Club of Marion County High School and Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America of Hackleburg High School. Together, they donated more than 1,200 pounds of food to those families.
Where did it all come from?
The idea of a school food bank and donating meals during the holidays sounds like a great idea, but obtaining enough food to give away can be a challenge. Eatman said not only did students donate foods from their homes, but they went out in the community to ask for donations, hosted canned food drives, and talked to churches. Eatman said she spoke to many of her community food banks to see if extra food was available, and if it was, many times, it was donated to the school food bank.
“Also, when we do these types of programs, we always try to provide Live Well Alabama recipe cards featuring the ingredients in the boxes,” Eatman said. “That way, recipients have a few ideas about how to use the food to make a healthy meal instead of struggling to make use of unfamiliar foods.”
The framework indicators used include ST7 Organizational Partnerships and MT5 Nutrition Supports.
Original success story submitted by Dustin Duncan. For more information, contact Sondra Parmer, Alabama Extension program leader for nutrition programs @ (334) 844-2231 or email.
To find more success stories about SNAP-Ed educators, visit LiveWellAlabama.com.