By Marie Muir | Photos by Beth Mann
On April 1, a team assembled at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS) central office to organize and pack up Chromebooks for loan to approximately 250 CHCCS second through fifth graders. One week later, a yellow school bus pulled into the parking lot at Greenfield Place apartments. The bus driver, Marty Martindale, has been transporting students to school for ten years, but these days he delivers grocery bags filled with food for impoverished families in the district. Bus monitors Shekita Gillis and Odella Winstead sort through and count the bags of food before handing them out the bus backdoor to Marty – all of them are wearing masks and gloves for protection.
“It sure is different now,” Skekita says. “But it’s great to know that we’re still taking care of the children in this way. We used to only deliver food during the summer, but now we deliver Monday through Friday.”
Sahmoi Stout, a Chapel Hill native, arrived on the scene to pick up food for his family. Sahmoi is a sophomore at York College of Pennsylvania studying economics and political science on a full scholarship. Since returning home from school, he’s been tasked with transitioning to online classes and assisting his mother with the care of three younger siblings and one cousin, all elementary-school age.
“It hasn’t been great, it seems like no one knows what’s going on with our online classes, and some students are going to fail. I was in the process of finding a mentor for my research project on how capitalism perpetuates economic insecurities in the U.S., but now my mentor is backing out,” Sahmoi says. “My mom has always worked from home, but she needs my help with the kids – getting them to do their schoolwork and keeping them busy. It hasn’t been very structured.”
At the food drop-off point, Sahmoi’s former teacher from Ephesus Elementary School, Laura Dudley, volunteers her time distributing bags of food to children. Laura is an assistant teacher for third graders at Ephesus and enjoys being able to see current and former students at the food drop-offs.
“[Sahmoi] was already an amazing person when I taught him in the fifth grade,” Laura says. “Now I help teach his little sister, Dorothy, who’s in the third grade. It feels great to have that connection, and I’m happy to see that he’s continuing his awesomeness.”
Also on the scene is Jeff Nash, executive director of community relations for the district. He shares that their child nutrition team is packaging approximately 2,000 meals a day and have served 99,552 meals as of April 10. The team delivers to more 30 sites weekly and will be adding five more sites after this week.
“Our bus drivers are really helping out,” Jeff says. “They know the kids personally, and when parents see the big yellow bus pull up, it adds legitimacy – rather than seeing a random van arrive with food in the trunk. The bus makes it safer for kids to approach and pick up their food.”
For those who want to help feed local students in need, please donate to the Public School Foundation.