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Community Partners Help Feed Hope During COVID-19 Response

Thistle Farms provides meals to school-age children amid the COVID-19 school closures

On a weekday morning, a van pulls up to the front of Smithson Craighead Academy (SCA) in Madison. Courtney Sobieralski, director of Cafe Services at Thistle Farms, along with a volunteer, unloads boxes of bagged meals to be distributed to students in the community. 

“We have partnered with Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee to provide lunches to their Summer Food Service Program,” said Courtney. “We mobilized our staff; we have prepared more than 460 lunches for students today. We are really excited to partner with Second Harvest to give back to the community.”

Thistle Farms has committed to providing nearly 1,300 bagged lunches a week to two Second Harvest Summer Food Service Program (SSFP) sites – SCA and Stonebrook Apartments in Nashville – for school-aged children during the duration of the COVID-19 school closures. Distributed Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of each week, the bagged lunches combined with warm meals prepared by the school, provide 12 total meals for students throughout the week.

“Food is the universal language for love,” said Courtney. “The Cafe at Thistle Farms, that is what we do – we feed people.”

“A lot of our families don’t have food, our parents have lost jobs, so we want to make sure we are able to at least take off some of that burden and be able to help feed them,” said Ahmed White, executive director and principal at SCA. 

Once the bagged meals from Thistle Farms are unloaded and organized, each attached with a personalized message of hope and love, a line of vehicles begins to form outside of the school. SCA staff have taken all necessary precautions – hand sanitizer, protective gloves, and facemasks – to ensure everyone’s health and safety during the no-contact, drive thru distribution. As each car pulls up, a staff member places the meals – along with fresh fruit and pantry items provided by Second Harvest – into the families’ vehicles. 

“They come through the line, drive thru, we serve them happily their meals, give them some encouraging words to get them through this pandemic, and then send them on their way with meals so they can have a blessed day,” said Lekita Steveson, operations director at SCA.

For SCA and Second Harvest’s other SFSP sites currently providing meals to at-risk students during this unprecedented time, the distributions are providing more than just food –  they are also providing hope. 

“The students get see a familiar face that helps them really feel better about what they are going through,” said Ahmed. “A lot of them have a lot of anxiety about being home and not knowing when they are coming back to see their little friends and teachers. This is our way of staying connected to our students but also the community because anyone under 18 can come by and get food to help out.”

In a time when so many of us can feel disconnected from our friends, neighbors, and community, Courtney from Thistle Farms says meals like this can bring people together – even when they have to be physically apart. 

“We are all craving that sense of connection,” said Courtney. “So we’ll glove up and we’ll mask up. We are coming together to prepare that food and to give back to the community. It’s more important now than ever.” 

Second Harvest currently has 17 SFSP sites open, providing 4,000 meals a week to approximately 1,000 school-age children throughout Davidson, Humphreys, Carroll, and Benton counties.

If you would like to help, every $1 donated provides four meals to those facing hunger – including children affected by the COVID-19 closures. Thank you for your support and for #FeedingHope and #FightingHunger in our community. 

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