Crenshaw County Schools embrace “feed the need” mantra

Published 1:31 am Thursday, January 19, 2023

The Crenshaw County Schools Child Nutrition program has a motto — feed the need — a motto which defines programs addressing the county’s critical health concern known as food insecurity.

According to Child Nutrition Director Ruth Bayman, Crenshaw is one of 17 counties identified in the Black Belt region where food insecurity rates are high.

“According to the organization, Feeding America, in 2018, 31% of our children experienced some form of food insecurities,” Bayman said.

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At that time, 23% of Alabama children were considered food insecure, she added.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as the lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life. Numerous adverse social and health outcomes are associated with food insecurity, which is considered an increasingly critical public health issue.

‘”At times, there is not enough food available in households throughout our county, causing food insecurities for our students.,” Bayman said. With the rising cost of foods, this is increasing daily. Students who are hungry can’t learn effectively and act out in class. We decided to help our students and families by participating in these programs and giving them access to nutritional, no-cost meals throughout the entire school day and through the summer.”

In 2015, Crenshaw schools began participating in the Community Eligible Provision program, which helped provide nutritionally balanced, no-cost breakfasts and lunches for students during the school year.

To help students arrive in the classroom on time and ready to work, the system implemented Breakfast in the Classroom for pre-kindergarten through sixth grade classes, so that elementary students could enjoy breakfast, then start their day, while upper grades ate simultaneously in the cafeteria.

According to Superintendent Dodd Hawthorne, the programs help meet the needs of students experiencing food insecurity at home, helping them concentrate on learning at school.

“As a school system, for us to be able to bridge that gap where food insecurities might exist is crucial in meeting the nutritional needs of our students,” Hawthorne said. “I’m very thankful to our child nutrition staff members and all they do for our students.”

The Snack program for 21st Century After School students launched in 2008 and in 2020, Crenshaw schools expanded the program to include supper for afterschool program students and athletes. 

Last year, the Snack and Supper program served 550 meals at Brantley, 2,320 meals at Highland Home, and 4,276 meals to Luverne students.

“Ruth and her staff do a great job helping meet the needs of our students as it relates to nutrition,” Crenshaw County Schools Superintendent Dodd Hawthorne said. “Certainly, we would like to think that nutritional needs are met at home but sometimes that might not be the case.”

For the past five years, the school system has offered meals during the summer, passing out meals through 21st Century After School Summer Camp, Summer Reading Camp for Kindergarten through third-grade students, athletics programs, band camp, and summer camp.

In addition, the Break for a Plate program offers summer meals at open sites, where anyone 18 and under can receive two free meals per day.

Farm to School, launched in 2022, allows county schools to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables directly from Alabama farmers.

“This is beneficial in offering a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to our students,” Bayman said. “It creates excitement for them to know that items were grown here in Alabama. We recently purchased persimmons from Ino Persimmons. Students and adults were surprised to learn that all persimmons aren’t bitter, but those grown close to home are sweet and delicious.”

Crenshaw County schools will celebrate National School Breakfast Week on March 6-10.

“A healthy breakfast at the start of the day is a great way to ensure students are nourished and ready to learn,” Bayman said. “National School Breakfast Week helps us educate parents and students about all the nutritious and delicious choices we offer.”