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State, community leaders step up to ensure Gadsden County children continue being fed

Posted at 6:38 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 18:38:31-04

GADSDEN COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL) — The greatest need for many of our communities right now is making sure everyone gets fed.

Unfortunately, feeding in Gadsden County was stopped when a Gadsden County school employee tested positive for coronavirus.

But just like you always do, the Big Bend is stepping up, making sure no one goes hungry. It's all about neighbors helping neighbors.

Thursday, hundreds of people we're still able to get a meal thanks to the state and community leaders.

Volunteers at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church handed out food until it was all gone.

"We're handing out over than 300 meals everyday to needy kids in the county, so we're very happy to be able to do that," said Pastor Mike Somers, St. Thomas Church.

It almost didn't happen after a Stewart Elementary School employee with COVID-19 symptoms was hospitalized.

Gadsden County Schools shut down their free breakfast and lunch program to avoid any possible contamination, affecting more than 3,600 students.

"Many of our families are not working and they depend day-to-day, week-to-week, otherwise with the kids at home, they wouldn't have anything to eat," Somers said.

Superintendent Roger Milton, along with the state Ag office and Senator Montford, coordinated a backup plan. They teamed up with Farm Share and the non-profit 4Roots to give meals instead.

"With the income level and poverty level in Gadsden County, a lot of parents are still working and trying to do their best to provide for their kids, and I really think it hurt our community," said Sylvia Martin, grandmother to a Gadsden County Schools student.

Martin stopped by to pick up food for her granddaughter. She says she's thankful things worked out in the end.

"I felt relieved because Gadsden County has been through so much, and I know God still got us," Martin said.

With God's help, people feel He will continue to have their back until the coronavirus clears.

"I'm not scared because with God there's everything, without him there's nothing," said Cittlyin Guerrero, Midway resident. "I'm confident with God everything will be okay. We just need to take our precautions."

Second Harvest of the Big Bend has some plans of their own, and they're also working with the superintendent to make sure kids stay fed.

"Have been provided through our state association, so we've just received those boxes and, luckily enough for us, we're going to be able to put them back on trucks so that they can go back out the door as quickly as Monday, so that they can be in use," said Monique Ellsworth, Second Harvest of the Big Bend CEO.

While all 30 original sites are not running, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services office setup six in the county where food can be picked up Thursday.

You can view the list of food distribution sites here.