Leon County Schools opening food pantries for students, parents

Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 8:53 PM EDT
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Leon County school children can count on free breakfast and free lunch when school is in session and this year, more and more families are counting on school pantries to fill the gap at home.

The help shelf outside Oak Ridge Elementary School offers just a glimpse of the free food available to families inside.

“We have our cabinets and they are categorized by food groups,” said parent liaison Aquila Muhammad. “We have our grains in this cabinet. These are our fruits and vegetables.”

The school opened this food pantry in January, giving parents a convenient way to get groceries when money is too tight at home.

“The pandemic has had an effect on all of us and in our community, not only in the sense of a lack of food but in a lack of resources to go get the food,” Muhammad said.

Oak Ridge is now one of 9 schools with on site pantries. That’s doubled since last year.

Rickards, Godby, Raa and Pineview were already up and running. Oak Ridge, WT Moore, Chaires, Fairview and Nims are now offering free food assistance too.

“These are the bags,” said Nims Middle School Assistant Principal Janele Bullard. “There’s enough in here to give a good meal.”

At Nims Middle School they hand out bags of food every Friday to make sure children have enough to eat over the weekend.

“They’re allowed to take for the families as well so some will say can I have one bag? And some will say may I have three to four bags? I’m getting this for my sister or for my brother,” Bullard said.

Nims hands out an estimated 250 bags a week and more as families need it.

“So you’ll see them having their book bags in their hands, they’re not embarrassed. They’re appreciative,” she said

At Oak Ridge Elementary, they estimate 50 families have relied on the food pantry to feed their children since it opened just a few months ago.

“I think it makes a great difference for our students not having to concentrate on the need of hunger or feeling hunger pains, so they feel supported in every way,” Muhammad said.

“We educate you, but we also make sure that you are fed, because all of that kind of goes hand in hand,” Bullard said.

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