As more families across Santa Rosa County find out they’ve been laid off due to COVID-19, the school district is providing free breakfast and lunches for those younger than 18 through federal programs. But what about their parents who suddenly don’t have income?
FoodRaising Friends is stepping up to help. Partnering with Santa Rosa County School’s Food Service, the nonprofit is providing free bags of groceries to families at all school food distribution sites across the county.
Founder Becca McKeithen said she and her volunteers were worried about families that were living paycheck to paycheck. With layoffs and fewer hours, many of them would be in jeopardy McKeithen said.
So, every Monday until at least April 15, the nonprofit will offer every family that comes to the food distribution school sites a bag of groceries as long as they have supplies.
“We are passing out food, but I really think we are passing out hope. It’s about the community. We are all in this together,” McKeithen said.
She pointed out that the meal box may help a family feed their grandparents in need or keep food in everyone’s belly.
“Kids may come out and get meals one day, but if the parent has to work another day, they may not be able to get to the food spot. So, with the grocery bag they still have food in the home,” McKeithen said.
Grocery bags will include items like oatmeal, cereal, macaroni and cheese kits, hamburger helper meal kits, canned vegetables, snacks and cans of Chef Boyardee.
Breakfast and lunch will be provided for every child present younger than 18 years old from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at distribution sites courtesy of the school district’s meal spot program.
School sites with distribution for both students and Monday grocery bags are:
- Holley Navarre Primary at parent pick up
- Milton High at the bus ramp on Raymond Hobbs Lane
- Pea Ridge Elementary at parent pick up lane
- East Milton Elementary at bus ramp in front of school
- Jay Elementary at bus loop on Alabama Street
- Berryhill Elementary at bus ramp
- TR. Jackson at parent pick up area
- Central School at parent pick up
- Bagdad Elementary at bus ramp area
- Benny Russell Elementary at bus ramp area
Just for students, buses will be delivering breakfast and lunch to children 11 a.m. to noon in neighborhoods with identified need based on federal guidelines. Those locations, which will not offer the grocery bags, are:
- Midway Fire Station, 1322 College Parkway, bus stop at 3144 Auburn Pkwy and 7596 Blackjack Circle
- Santa Villa
- Bell Ridge Apartments
- Blackwater Baptist
- Skyline One at the intersection of Syrcle and Judy
- Skyline Two at the intersection of Syrcle and Julia
- Skyline Three at the intersection of Skyline and Eva
- Skyline Four at the intersection of Syrcle and Gaynell
- Santa Gertrudas located south of I-10
- Permenter and American Farms located north of I-10
- Additionally, McKeithen said they will be going into the areas where poverty levels are highest and access to food stores is most sparse to do grocery bag distribution as well.
Currently the nonprofit has dedicated $20,000 in funding toward this effort, and every little bit helps McKeithen said. She pointed out no one within the organization receives compensation. All funds pay for food, storage, delivery and supplies.
“If you’re fortunate enough to know that you are going to be OK, know that a significant portion of the population lives paycheck to paycheck even without these extreme circumstances,” she said. “If you can be generous, I highly recommend you do so.”
As FoodRaising Friends’ motto says, “it takes a village,” especially in a crisis.
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