The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
By Gracie Bonds Staples
I don’t care how many times someone tells me there are people in this country who struggle to put food on the table, who go to bed hungry, it’s just hard to digest.
America, after all, has long been wealthy to the point of excess.
And yet the wide gap between the haves and the have-nots is so vast that more than 11 million children live in households that don’t have enough food.
That was true even before the COVID-19 pandemic set in, so imagine what life is like for those children and their families now.
Kim Dennis doesn’t need her imagination. She sees them every day.
Dennis is the executive director of Create Your Dreams, a youth development nonprofit dedicated to nurturing the talents and dreams of students living in underserved communities on Atlanta’s Westside.
At any given time, those students number about 50. If they have a need, any need at all, Dennis is one of the first to know.
As you might have guessed, food is their most pressing need now.
Since April, 40% of families at Create Your Dreams have lost their jobs. Since the pandemic hit, there has been a 25% increase in requests for help.
“With 3 out of 4 of our students living in single parent-led homes, these job losses are especially devastating,” Dennis said. “Families need assistance to feed their children and pay their bills.”
On Wednesday, CYD began doing what it could, delivering meals to families, enough to feed them three times a week. The deliveries from The Butler’s Pantry Food Company will continue until June 3.
It would not have been possible, Dennis told me, had it not been for the nonprofit Mutual Alliance Restoring Community Hope or MARCH Foundation.
This is not the first time the foundation has helped CYD. It’s been sponsoring their efforts for at least the past eight years.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its uneven impact on black communities, the MARCH Foundation board decided to increase its giving to CYD by nearly $20,000.
When discussing how to do that, board Chairman Norman Carmichael said members, all current or retired African American UPS executives, saw a way to help The Butler’s Pantry, a black-owned small business, at the same time.
“We’re always proud to share our blessings with others,” he said.
The Butler’s Pantry will provide a total of 160 meals per day, three times a week for a four-week period.
Owner and chef DePhon Robinson said families will be treated to clean, healthy meals from a variety of cuisines ranging from Italian to Tex-Mex, Thai, and traditional Southern.
This week’s menu will include herb grilled chicken breast with a trio of black peppercorn and garlic roasted potatoes and lemon and olive oil roasted broccoli; lemon thyme seared salmon with coconut lemongrass rice and roasted Brussels sprouts, and Robinson’s signature vegetable lasagna.
Robinson said he was completely floored and humbled for the opportunity to have his team prepare meals for these families.
“The impact of COVID-19 has reached far and wide, disrupting the lives of so many families, and a great meal is a perfect way to enjoy time with the people that you love the most,” he said.
It’s no secret that black-owned small businesses here and across the country are hurting. That’s especially true of the service industry, including restaurants and catering companies like The Butler’s Pantry.
That’s why, Carmichael said, it was so important to the MARCH Foundation to include a business in this effort.
That’s what you call getting the biggest bang for your buck.
It’s a generous and needed gesture, but let’s keep in mind the arrival of summer is still on the horizon and we have no idea when children will be returning to school.
That means things will only get worse. For too many kids, school is the only guarantee they will get a meal.
And although summer programs help to prevent a lot of kids from going hungry, only 15% of the children who need it are actually reached.
The good news is there is help available. No Kid Hungry, a national organization that works to end childhood hunger, runs a texting service to help parents and caregivers find free summer meal sites in their neighborhood.
For more information, go to nokidhungry.org.