Rows of tables stacked with cans, boxes and bags of food, diapers, toilet paper and other essentials occupy what was once the Martin L. Nesbitt Jr. Discovery Academy lunchroom in West Asheville. With their STEM classes now moved online because of the coronavirus pandemic, the lunchroom has become a center of operations for Buncombe County Schools to feed children who can no longer get their meals at school.
In times of trouble, good people find ways to help those in need. When the pandemic hit in March and students were suddenly without meals, Shannon Boyd, Youth-In-Transition Coordinator for BCS, took charge of a program that delivered 41 meals on the very first day of operation on March 16 and now delivers more than 900 child nutrition meals each day to vulnerable students and families in the county.
They also deliver over 100 supplemental food boxes to families on a weekly basis. It’s part of the larger Buncombe County Schools Child program that delivers 7,000-9,000 meals each day. As of May 22 – the latest count they had – the BCS Child Nutrition Program had prepared 872,233 meals.
Moe Davis visited Nesbitt this week to learn about the program and discuss needs and federal support available with Boyd, Buncombe County Schools Assistant Superintendent Joseph Hough, Asheville City Schools Youth in Transition Coordinator Jessica Supik and teaching assistant Kay Smith.
“I enjoyed having the chance to see the extraordinary efforts the Asheville and Buncombe County schools are taking to ensure their students are safe, fed and still able to learn during the Covid-19 restrictions,” Davis said. “The dedication of those who’ve stepped up to help is impressive and is a testament to the professionalism and personal commitment of everyone in our public education systems.”
There are 20 routes with drivers taking 50 to 70 meals on each route each day out of Nesbitt. The vehicles are supplied by school maintenance. The operation is staffed with teaching assistants, bus drivers and custodians who were put out of work by the pandemic but are being brought back in and paid. There also are volunteers, with the National Guard helping as well.
An outpouring of support has come from individuals to neighborhoods, churches and businesses. On a recent day, two carts full of supplies came in from the nearby Olivette neighborhood. Around Easter, CVS donated candy.
They’re delivering more than food now.
“We take food boxes, laundry detergent, school supplies, dog food from the Humane Society,’’ Boyd said. “Pretty much anything a family would need that they couldn’t get out to the store, we’ve got it here.”
Boyd used some of the donations to put a homeless family into a hotel.
The community continues to step forward. Six Asheville businesses — Mosaic Community Lifestyle Realty, JAG Construction, Symmetry Financial Group, Jade Mountain Builders, Alfie Loans, and Village Antiques – are matching $1 per donated food item or per dollar donated, up to $30,000. Volunteers from those companies are also driving to homes to pick up the donations and deliver to schools.
Even that’s not enough. They need more. More food. More donations. More supplies. More people.
Want to help? Please donate at stocktheshelvesavl.org