MAC’S Diner: A way to bring food to hungry children in Alamance County

In June of 2019 my friend Jessica Williams wrote a story for the Burlington Times-News under the headline: “ABSS slowly expands summer feeding program.” Her lead sentence? “Hunger doesn’t take summers off.”

With that beginning and a wish expressed in the story by Pam Bailey, Child Nutrition Director for the Alamance-Burlington School System, an idea was born. In the Times-News story about the ABSS annual summer feeding program, held last summer centered at Broadview Middle School, Bailey pointed out that the federally funded program served 1,200 to 1,550 kids lunch from seven vans traveling to churches, libraries, apartment buildings and other sites. Not bad, but . . . more than 12,000 ABSS students receive either free or reduced-price lunch during the school year. And many of the most needy areas in the county were not being served at all.

Bailey’s dream solution? A food truck. “With that food truck, you can reach a lot more because the meal is on there,” she told the Times-News. “One of our employees can park for 30 minutes, get those kids fed, and drive to the next site and feed even more kids. I know there’s still a lot of hungry kids, and I know we’re not reaching all of the kids we need to reach.”

While staffing a food truck and providing food is possible for ABSS, a food truck tumbled into the category of not a chance. The funding simply isn’t there and likely never will be.

That’s where Margaret Skulnik enters the picture. Skulnik, who lives in Elon, read the Times-News story last summer and has now put a plan in motion to raise money to purchase a food truck for use by the ABSS Nutrition Services Program in the summer feeding program and at different times throughout the year when schools aren’t operating and kids are hungry. Starting from her church, First United Methodist of Graham, Skulnik began reaching out to other churches and organizations under the heading “Meals for Alamance County Students.” Ultimately she hopes the effort pays for what she calls MAC’S Diner.”

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Skulnik is concentrating fund-raising efforts from now to April in hopes of having a food truck operational by this summer. It’s an optimistic time frame. That’s why Skulnik is reaching out to churches throughout Alamance County, civic organizations, non-profits and foundations. Fund-raisers are planned. And she’s assembling a list of people who might be able to help. She contacted me because I write regularly about things in Alamance County and know a lot of people from my time in newspapers and my work now at Elon University.

She was also correct in thinking that I would be interested in a program like this one. By coincidence late last year I was involved in a writing exercise for Alamance Achieves and I selected as my topic nutrition for children who live in food insecure situations, especially when schools aren’t in session. One of the biggest roadblocks to building strong minds is in early childhood nutrition. It’s a significant problem in Alamance County.

So I’m very interested. I gave her a few potential contacts this afternoon, told her I would think of some more, and promised to write something about it to help spread the word.

So y’all help me out.

For those who think this might be a wild idea, it’s not. It’s not so different from a bookmobile. And a school system operating a food truck to meet demand by hungry students isn’t unusual. School systems in Guilford and Davidson counties currently operate food trucks. Schools in Danville, Virginia, do as well.

While Skulnik is calling upon the faith community and businesses to take part, individual as well as group donations are needed. People can help by spreading the word. The more people who know, the more potential supporters.

People can donate by check through the First United Methodist Church of Graham. Make checks payable to FUMCG with Food Truck on the memo line. Mail donations to First United Methodist Church of Graham, 303 N. Main St., Graham, NC, 27253.

The website for Meals for Alamance County Students became live this week. Access it here or http://www.mealsforalamancecountystudents.org

The group also has a Facebook page. Access it here.

Those with questions may contact Margaret Skulnik at the First United Methodist Church office, 336-226-4343.

And remember, hunger doesn’t take summers off.

 

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