When Mitchie Neel, Executive Director Blount County Education Foundation, considered a summer feeding program in Blount County, she understood the uphill climb she’d be facing. However, she knew how much of a necessity it is to the county and many of the communities in the area. Ultimately, Neel and her team decided on Susan Moore Elementary School. “We wanted to focus on the community that it had the potential for the greatest impact,” said Neel. “Our Susan Moore community is a great community, but their free and reduced lunch rate is 78 percent in August, and it went up three times during the school year.”
There were a lot of things at play for Neel and BCEF to ponder, primarily, the accessibility of the location that housed the feeding program. “We had not been doing a summer feeding in Blount County because of the transportation issue,” Neel said. “The kids who would be most likely to come and eat would be the ones sitting home because parents are working and there’s no transportation.”
The feeding program serves breakfast and lunch to residents 18 and under. The program is not restricted to Susan Moore residents. “It’s open to anyone 18 and under,” she said. “The vast majority of the people that take advantage of this would be from Susan Moore, but any parent is welcome to bring their child.”
The other part Neel had to figure out was what could she provide the students in between meals by way of summer enrichment. The BCEF already supports a library program that allows students to check out books and have story time for one day a week. With the help and support of United Way of Central Alabama, Alabama Power Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, Blount County Board of Education, Appalachian Regional Commission and Summer Adventures In Learning (SAIL), Neel expanded the one day a week library program into a six week healthy living enrichment program that includes math, reading, music and STEM called Susan Moore Dreamcatcher Summer. “Everything just kept falling into place, so that we’re able to provide what w
e think is a very quality program,” Neel said. “We just knew that if all of that fit together that students could not only benefit from the meals, but if we put something in between the meals that academically, we could make an impact as well.”
United Way of Central Alabama Inc. supports health and human service programs and agencies that provide solutions for the most important needs in the community.
Its business is to improve lives and community conditions by building and mobilizing resources. To learn more about United Way’s impact in your community visit www.uwca.org.