Based on statistics from local schools, CFS directors Jim and Linda Jones estimate that 67 percent of students in Talladega and Coosa counties are food insecure, meaning they do not know when or from where their next meal will come.
In hopes of reducing those numbers, the organization began collecting donations and was soon distributing bags of food to B.B. Comer and Sylacauga students in need. In the bags are items like peanut butter, bread, crackers and fruit that equate to about 2,000 calories or as many as seven meals. These items are handed out each Friday at school and are meant to last through the weekend.
“Our intent with everything we do is to feed the kids,” Jim Jones said. “Our motto is, ÔFeeding hungry faces, one smile at a time,’ and that’s what we get when we give children this food Ñ a big smile.”
The Joneses and a team of volunteers coordinate with school counselors to select children who may benefit from the program. Kristen Elliff, a counselor at Pinecrest Elementary School, said they chose simply by asking parents if they needed assistance.
“We sent home a letter with every student asking for a response from the parents,” she said. “We wanted them to know that it is available, and it’s something we want to provide if it is needed. Some kids did it for a while and their parents would say, ‘Thank you, but we think another student might benefit more from this,’ so we took another look and were able to add more.”
Since October, CFS has served about 225 students a week and hopes to increase that number to 500 with the addition of Fayetteville schools this month. Jim Jones said students are always appreciative when they are called to the office to pick up food at the end of the week. Some have even deemed their food pick-up the “Friday Club.”
“They are extremely excited to have food on a regular basis, and they begin to depend on it in just a few weeks time,” he said.
The effects of food insecurity are more than simply being hungry, Jones said. It is an entire set of circumstances and behaviors that develop from not knowing when you will next have food.
According to information from CFS, children often do not thrive without an adequate diet, leading to health issues, problems in school, increased crime and drug activity and poor career choices. CFS estimates that three of every four children in Coosa County and one of every two in Talladega County experience these and other effects in some way. Nationwide, 17 million children are food insecure.
The charity organization, which has applied for official nonprofit status, is asking for the public’s help in ending this problem. CFS operates entirely through volunteers, housing food in a storage facility in town. Volunteers meet once a week to pack enough food for each school, and from there the schools bag the food and hand it out. Jim Jones said they are always in need of donations of money or time from community members to make this happen. It takes about $20 a month to feed one child, he said.
All funds come through SAFE Family Services Center and 100 percent of donations go toward buying food. Jones said they prefer cash to food donations so every child can receive generally the same food in their bag.
For more information or to donate, contact CFS at 256-245-6115 or 256-404-2004.
Contact Emily Adams at email@example.com.