With the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus and schools shuttered for the time being, one thing is certain – the community is coming together to offer a helping hand.
Local churches have joined to feed local students during the closure to ensure they continue to receive healthy meals.
North Winona Baptist Church began their feeding program today. The program is pick-up only and placed in sacks.
Holly Bridges said people from all over Winona donated to help North Winona feed Montgomery County’s children.
“We did it by word of mouth, and Calbrina [Woods] posted it live on Facebook,” Bridges said. “We’re just doing what we’ve been called to do, serve Him and help others.” Bridges said.
Tuesday, they fed 215 children.
North Winona’s feeding program will be held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. Bridges said they’re already preparing to feed for next week.
“Calbrina took some, we took some to Poplar Creek and some to Kilmichael, and today we’re sending some to Duck Hill. We’re just trying to reach the county,” she said.
Bridges, who is a teacher at Winona Career and Technical Center, said she doesn’t know when they’re going to return back to school. She said she feels that everyone is just trying to navigate this time as best as they can. “We’re all in the same boat,” Bridges said.
Woods said members of North Winona reached out to her and asked what they could do to help during this time. She said they decided on a feeding program. She said she takes 75 and gives them out through her ministry, Blessing for All Empowered By Faith.
First Baptist Church also has an ongoing ministry, Blessings in a Backpack Ministry, to help meet the needs of children in Montgomery County.
According to Michael Maloney, a member of First Baptist Church, the church began Blessings in a Backpack this past January. The program involves church members filling backpacks with enough food for needy students to have over the weekend.
The church buys from an approved food list, and fills each backpack with three entrees, two breakfasts, two snacks, two pastas, two drinks, and a scripture card.
“We are not only trying to feed their bellies, but feed their heart and soul with God’s Word,” Maloney said.
Maloney said letters were sent home to students who participate in the school’s after-school program, and parents had to give permission for their child to participate. Maloney said the church has been filling 66 bags per week.
Maloney said the ministry is temporarily on hold due to the school closure, and they are working on a plan to reach the students while they are out of school. He also explained that since the crisis began, the church has had trouble purchasing the food for the backpacks. Maloney said the church would make an announcement when the ministry is operating once again.
Governor Tate Reeves instructed school districts to continue feeding students on the free and reduced lunch program, but according to Dr. Teresa Jackson, that isn’t as easy as it sounds because the district has no process in place to handle preparing and delivering remote meals. Also, the district will have to be approved to provide a feeding program.
“Most of the districts currently doing the feeding program are more equipped that we are,” Jackson said.
“North Winona is leading the way, and First Baptist is continuing their Blessings in a Backpack ministry,” Jackson said. “I feel comfortable with our churches doing it because I know our students will get [fed].”
Jackson said the Winona-Montgomery Consolidated School District has donated all perishable items they had in stock, all milk and produce, but most of the district’s food is frozen to prepare hot meals for students. The district does not have the inventory to produce sacked lunches.
“This is so unknown, I just think there needs to be a system in place before we [start providing lunches],” said Cheryl Small, member of the WMCSD board of trustees. “That is a big plan that needs to be planned very well.”
Carroll County School District
The Carroll County School District will begin its feeding program Wednesday in Vaiden and in Carrollton. The program is pick up only and parents can drive up to the Vaiden High Gym or the J.Z. George High Parking lot. Children must be present in order to receive the meal. The meals will take place at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
The district is asking that people remain in their vehicles, so social distancing is maintained. Meals are to be consumed off site and no one is allowed in facilities.