Healthy Meals for Strong Minds
More than a decade ago, Southern Shores residents Helen Ford and Ed Hazlett began discussing ways they could help the Outer Banks community. Inspired by an after-school program they read about in Virginia Beach, they met with Dare County school officials and social service workers to determine if there was a need for a similar program that could provide nutritious meals to local school children who might otherwise go hungry over the weekends and holiday breaks. There was, and Food for Thought was born.
By working with a number of community partners and volunteers, a pilot program with 54 participants was initiated in February 2006 at Manteo Elementary School. It was an immediate success and less than a year afterwards the program expanded to serve all five Dare County elementary schools. Ten years later, Food for Thought now provides non-perishable breakfasts, lunches, and fresh fruit each weekend during the school year to more than 500 pre-school, elementary, middle, and high school students in Dare County annually.
Though the number of Dare County youths who are eligible for meal assistance has nearly doubled since Food for Thought began, the program has also been able to feed more than 5,300 children to date, and community support has been overwhelming, according to volunteer board member Nena Teller. “We really want to thank the community most of all for making a difference,” she says. “Together we can see how much this works.”
With new programs on the horizon such as a mini-pantry initiative that will provide personal items for students in need at three local high schools, Food for Thought continues to grow beyond its 10th anniversary and well into the future. ♦