Feeding Northeast Florida is working daily to help families by distributing food to partner agencies across eight counties. We met Margaret and her son Carlton at a distribution event at a partner agency in Middleburg.
Carlton is an energetic, outgoing 8-year-old getting ready to start third grade.
“I want to see what my new teacher is going to be like. And on my first test I am interested to see if I get an ‘A’ or a ‘B’ because that’s the only two grades my mom will accept,” he said.
He’s in the gifted program at his school and his mom Margaret said she will do whatever it takes to make sure he’s armed with all the tools he needs to succeed. Even if that means stepping out of her comfort zone.
“We’ve never had to live like this before. I’ve never had to do this,” said Margaret.
Margaret’s husband was recently disabled, meaning the steady income they’d been accustomed to is no longer a reality.
“We went from X amount of dollars down every week to now that’s what we get every month. It’s a real big struggle,” she said.
So for the first time, the family came to the Middleburg United Methodist Church’s Food Bridge – a Feeding Northeast Florida partner agency. Every Thursday, they distribute food to those in need.
“Most people, they’re struggling. Maybe medical bills are too high or maybe the rent is too high. We’ve had a lot of people that come here and they got sick and they lost their job, their bosses fired them and things went downhill and they needed help,” said Food Bridge Coordinator Craig Van Gundy. “A lot of times people come on their first time and they’re kind of embarrassed and we try to encourage them to let them know there’s a lot of people in the same situation they’re in and we’re not here to judge, we’re just here to help.”
But the struggle amplifies in the summertime, and back-to-school brings added costs for families. Van Gundy wanted to do more. So on a Thursday leading up to the first day of school, parents received bags of school supplies with their food.
“It’s kind of overwhelming on me so I thank god for places like this that can help because we wonder what we’re going to do week from week. We worried about school supplies,” said Margaret.
Feeding Northeast Florida CEO Luke Layow said no parent should have to choose between feeding their child or getting them ready for school.
“I have two boys and I know I just spent nearly $200 on school supplies for them and these were school supplies lists issued by the school, so that’s what they’re telling me I need to do as a parent to prepare my children for school,” Layow said. “So that’s a bill that most people would say is unexpected. They’re not budgeting for that and that might force them to choose between food and school supplies or food and clothes for their child to go back to school. Shoes, clothes, all that stuff adds up, so to partner with someone like the Methodist church here in Middleburg that’s giving out food and school supplies, I think that makes a lot of sense.”
As a buggy full of fresh produce, meat, dry goods and school supplies was rolled out to Margaret’s car, she was grateful. And Carlton is ready to tackle third grade.
“It’s a Godsend. I’m very, very thankful from the bottom of my heart. This is just God in action for us,” said Margaret.
There are 283,140 people in Northeast Florida who are hungry. More than 81,000 are children. For those families, your gift is the difference between hunger and hope. $20 provides 120 meals for families struggling with hunger. Click HERE to give.