Mom Feeds School Community During COVID-19 Closures
Ashley Dykes is someone who sees a need and quickly finds a solution.
Ashley is a parent who knows something about getting kids to share, but when she found out the 700 students at their Lake Orienta Elementary School shared one ball for recess, she knew she had to act. Ashley applied for and was awarded an AFHK Parents for Healthy Kids grant to help purchase age-appropriate recess equipment for all students in every grade. To make sure the equipment stayed organized and in working condition, she color-coded each grade level’s equipment and even added scannable QR codes that linked to a document where she could easily track needed replacements. Now students can play with equipment suited to their age, creating enriched recess and playtime. Problem solved.
Ashley’s work with the school did not stop with recess, however. When the coronavirus pandemic disrupted school in her Altamonte Springs, Florida community, as head of the school’s food pantry, she knew the most vulnerable children would be at even greater risk for food insecurity, especially families that lacked transportation or became unemployed. “We’ve had a dramatic uptick in the number of unique cases [of food insecurity] since COVID-19. Families who were not part of the program before are now receiving food because some parents are newly unemployed but not yet able to receive unemployment assistance,” said Ashley. “The pandemic has changed who is using my services.”
Ashley took action immediately by contacting the Seminole County District to inquire about the distribution locations for meals, and she secured permission from school administration to relocate the majority of the food pantry to her garage and deliver food directly to those in need. Ashley mobilized others in the community to make donations through a call-to-action on Facebook. The PTA provided crayons, pencil sharpeners, white boards, toiletries, and cleaning supplies for the families. Local community organizations, including Rotary and local churches, and individuals dropped off generous donations to her front doorstep, which Ashley supplements with a weekly food pick-up at Second Harvest. One Lake Orienta fourth-grade teacher coordinated a weekly fundraiser to shop for items to donate to the food pantry.
Ashley organizes all the donations, packs up bags for each family, and delivers them directly to 26 students (19 families) in her school community. As many of the students are homeless or have relocated multiple times during the pandemic, Ashley is in constant contact with guidance counselors and teachers to ensure she can help families who might need access to nutritious food. She knows the need will continue to grow and is working to address all urgent requests throughout the summer and into the coming school year.
Learn how you can help AFHK help parents like Ashley and support school districts and schools in their food access efforts.
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