Mary K. and Gene Carlton, on behalf of Nourish One Child, recently received $100,000 from the Jackson County Commission, who designated American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to go toward the sustainment and support of the program.“The Jackson County Commission is please to award a $100,000 grant of American Rescue Plan Act funds to the Nourish One Child Organization. These funds will be allocated $50,000 per year for 2023 and 22. One of the ARPA objectives is to help address food insecurity,” stated Commission Chairman Bill Nance. “Nourish One Child and their volunteers are doing a wonderful service to Jackson County by providing backpacks with nourishing foods to county school children. The need for this food support continues to increase. These backpacks supplement the school lunch programs and help insure children have food support throughout the week. The Jackson County commissioners want to thank Nourish One Child for the opportunity to partner with them to provide this much needed food support.”
Nourish One Child is a nonprofit 501(c)3 corporation. Their purpose is to provide nutritious food to the most food-insecure Scottsboro City school children when not in school. The nonprofit began in the spring of 2013 with 25 students at Brownwood Elementary, having grown to serve all Scottsboro City schools in the last 10 years, with 375 students during the 2022-2023 school year. During the pandemic school closure, 420 students were served three times per week.
“When the pandemic hit, the former school superintendent called a meeting of all the community agencies and churches, and he didn’t give me any heads up, and he said he would like to ask Nourish One Child to provide bags three times a week, and the school buses would deliver them. I was sitting there thinking how much money I had in the bank, and it was only enough to finish the school year but not three bags a week,” Carlton stated. “I thought, okay, I need to go home and pray about this. The next day, Andy Skelton with the Bynum Foundation, called and offered us $25,000.”
Of the ARPA funds, Carlton stated, “It came at a time when we needed it. Because we realized at this board meeting, we’re going to run out of money come February. So we started really putting the word out, and we got quite a few donations in December. That’s when Bill Nance contacted us and said he’d gotten an approval to do it this way. And that’s the way it’s been. Whenever I think that’s it, or I don’t know what we’re going to do, something always comes in at the last minute. Never fails.”
This area is facing a growing food insecurity crisis, especially for small children. Repeatedly, studies have shown a direct correlation between a child facing poverty and/or food insecurity and the downward spiral of their academic performance. Most of the population has not truly known the desperation of not knowing where their next meal is coming from. True hunger. A growing number of this area’s children do know what that’s like.
Mary K., a Northern Virginia native, came to Scottsboro when she and her husband were house shopping for just the right place on the water. They were familiar with the area by bringing their children to Camp Maranatha for years. When moving to Scottsboro, Mary K. wasn’t familiar with many people and began to pray for guidance about what God wanted her to do with her time here in Scottsboro. It was during a Sunday school class that it was decided action would be taken instead of just talking about the food insecurity problem for children in Jackson County and Scottsboro. And that’s when she knew.
“During the first year of operation, the Nourish One Child program began delivering 25 bags per week to one elementary school,” Carlton stated. “The program has now grown to provide over 376 bags per week to all five Scottsboro City schools.”
In 2010, 231 students were served with a $6 bag cost and a weekly cost of $1,400. In the 2021-2022 school year, the average bag sot $8, 12,000 bags were packed, with 2,000 bags packed during the summer feeding program, coming in with a total of 14,000 bags packed. During the pandemic, 420 students were served three times a week for $7 per bag and a weekly cost of $9,000.
The program has also been hit in the wallet like most Americans. With inflation, there’s a new worry to consider.
Carlton stated, “Currently, for the 2022-2023 school year, 375 students are being served with $8 per bag and a weekly cost of $3,000. That’s a 30% increase from where they began.”
Carlton also stated that even though resources are limited, they do their best to try and include a variety of nutritious food groups. Each bag contains nutritious food items from the dairy, fruit, grain and protein food groups. A sample of the weekly menu consists of 12 items per bag. These include dairy, such as cheese crackers, a snack pudding and organic chocolate milk. For protein, Kraft macaroni and cheese microwaveable cups and microwaveable Chef Boyardee cups are included. Mandarin orange cups, juice boxes with straws and fruit rollups are for fruit, and Lays assorted chips, animal crackers, Kellogg’s Pop Tarts and Cereal boxes cover grain. Each school has a coordinator who determines the number of bags needed. While Nourish One Child does not know the recipients, they are told all the children who qualify for free or reduced school meals. These children are the most food-insecure. Nourish One Child has also provided TANF boxes to families several times during the year, including Head Start and foster care families.
“Calvary Baptist and Trinity Baptist take a month in the summer. We make the menus, they pick up the food,” Carlton stated. “They’ve done that about four or five years now. Otherwise, I don’t know that we could do the summer.”
The Nourish One Child program is staffed totally by volunteers. There are no paid positions or salaries.
How can you help? Donate by cash, check or credit card. Visit nourishonechild.com, donate single-serve items, volunteer to help pack, agree to serve on Nourish One Child Board and/or hold a fundraiser.
by Martha Smith