Live Well Alabama
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. 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, as is the case with Hackleburg High School, which 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, and 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, and the recently-formed Good Samaritan Club operates the food bank at Brilliant School.
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 for several years as a possible spot. Eatman asked for volunteers to clean and transform the building for potential food bank space and 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, succeeded in 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, but also 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 including 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, which 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 to donate 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 a couple of Live Well Alabama recipe cards featuring the ingredients in the boxes,” Eatman said. “That way, when they get home, they have a few ideas about how to use the food to make a healthy meal instead of struggling to make use of unfamiliar foods.”
While schools were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Eatman provided nutrition education virtually to several students throughout Walker and Marion Counties. Additionally, she took the time during the pandemic to engage in other areas of the community.
“We were able to do more professional development, work more with community gardens, work with community food banks, develop more community partnerships, and keep a helpful presence throughout the community,” Eatman said. “It was great to have more opportunities to think outside the box to continue to make an impact.
To find more success stories about SNAP-Ed educators, visit LiveWellAlabama.com.