See how the Birmingham and Pelham school systems are feeding thousands of families

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Pelham City Schools staff preparing meals for curbside pickup. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

This past week I got to witness first hand a remarkable movement emerging from the COVID-19 crisis. School systems and volunteers  stepping up to feed our community’s students and families.

On Monday, Bham Now newsletter producer Sheila McCallum gave me a brief and “socially distant” tour of the 5 day supply of meals being prepared at the Pelham Park Middle School.

The Pelham staff was focused and cheerful.  In just an hour and a half they were expecting to begin distributing 800 packages consisting of 5 days of meals – breakfast and lunch.

It was a massive project.

Do it for our Students

Pelham City Schools staff preparing meals. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Orchestrating the effort was Patrick McGavin, Child Nutrition Program Director at Pelham City Schools. 

“When we decided to feed, we really wanted to do it for our students and community – to make sure all our students were getting fed,” explained McGavin.

He told me that a third of his Pelham City Schools employees come in on Monday, Wednesday and Friday reducing their risks of exposure. More importantly, it also allows them to stay under 10 people at any given time. Each day, they plan and prep. On Monday, the staff distributes the meals to Pelham families.

Pulling Together

Pelham City Schools staff preparing meals. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

After the distribution, I called and asked Sheila McCallum, who also works at Pelham City Schools, to reflect on spending the day giving out the meals. 

She said,  “I like how we’ve pulled together, all the staff. It has been really rewarding. The Superintendent will come in, the coaches, P.E. teachers, all saying what can I do, how can I help? It is that giving spirit and helping hands.”

The Pelham City Schools are not alone feeding their students during this national crisis which has seen unemployment increase from less than 4% to 13% and rising in two weeks. 

McGavin is working and collaborating with other school systems in the Birmingham metro area.

Birmingham City Schools

Photo courtesy of Whitney Wright

In the spirit of collaboration and working “hand in hand,” the  Birmingham City Schools announced this week that they will be feeding their students every weekday until June 5th.

Here are the curbside locations:

Filling the Gaps

In an inspirational story, last week, due to valid safety concerns the Birmingham City Schools free lunch service stopped. In less than 24 hours, the City of Birmingham, the Birmingham Education Foundation, Bham Strong and other donors provided meals for Birmingham City Schools students. They provided 22,000 free lunches at 28 locations across the city.

What You Can Do?

There are many groups working on food security for our community.  If you want to give, visit the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham and United Way Community Crisis Fund websites.

If you need help, call United Way’s 2-1-1.  They can help direct you to a multitude of services.

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Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
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