Last Thursday, the local chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha distributed Hi-Five food packs to needy children at Hiawassee Elementary School. The sorority’s “Food Angels” show up each and every Friday to distribute shelf-stable, weekend packs, classroom by classroom, student by student.
Second Harvest Food Bank’s Hi-Five program helps students fill the nutritional gap on weekends, when they lack access to school cafeterias. According to Maira Gomez, Community Liaison, more than 40 of the school’s 700 students are classified as homeless.
Data show that one in four children in our nation experiences food insecurity. The same holds true for Orange County where just over 140,000 children live in poverty, including more than 11,000 homeless students in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties. The homeless estimate in the tri-county area is up from 9,000 last year.
Hiawassee Elementary is located in the Pine Hills sector of Orlando where per-capita income is just 56% of the State average. † As we made the rounds and entered classrooms, students were eagerly awaiting the “Angels”, accompanied by school staff and student safety patrols. Each child in turn received a bag of food containing eight nutritious items to take home for the weekend. One youngster told me she shares the contents with her sister.
I don’t visit the schools as often as I’d like to, and when I do, I only interact with the staff, since classrooms are off-limits. This time was different; we’d been invited. What we saw further strengthens my belief that the most effective way to fight childhood hunger is by engaging community partners.
They say that no one stands taller than when he or she kneels to help a child. The school leadership, staff and the “Angels”, have taken the art of kneeling to new heights. Special thanks to those who transformed a routine Friday morning into an uplifting experience.
Alpha Kappa Alpha: Dr. Nora Woodard, San Janette L. Scott, Jessie Newman, Shirley Cowans, Barbara Mullings, Margie Wells, Hudie Stone.
Hiawassee Elementary School: Principal La Donna Johnson, Dr. Ethel Wellington-Trawick, Maira Gomez-Vega
Hiawassee Elementary School Safety Patrols let by Angela Walton.
† 2010 Census Figures
Childhood Hunger Programs Manager