Help 4 Kids partnership bears school fruit stands
In 2013, Help 4 Kids Florence began serving students in Florence 1 Schools through their weekend food bag program, helping to bridge the food gap between school on Friday and Monday. By 2018, they were sending bags home each weekend with more than 2,200 students. Now, through a generous donation from the Florence Wine and Food Festival, Florence 1 and Help 4 Kids have partnered for another endeavor: fresh fruit stands in schools.
A ribbon cutting for the stands was held at North Vista Elementary School on Sept. 26.
Jeff Murrie, Farm to School Coordinator for Florence 1 Schools, was the driving force for the project after creating a similar stand at Briggs Elementary School in 2018.
“This stand has been a huge success at Briggs,” Murrie said. “We stocked it with things like apples, oranges and bananas and averaged three cases of fruit a week for our 584 students.”
Murrie said that after piloting the fruit stand at Briggs, he sought permission to expand to other schools.
“This was great for the students at Briggs but I really wanted more children in Florence 1 to benefit from having these fresh fruits available at their school,” Murrie said. “Good nutrition plays a key role in our students’ health and their education.”
After receiving permission to expand, Murrie submitted a proposal to the Help 4 Kids Florence Board of Directors outlining what the responsibilities would be for the non-profit and the school district, as well as his vision for what the tables would look like. They agreed to use $30,000 of their $70,000 donation from the Florence Wine and Food Festival to fund the fruit purchases to stock the stands.
“We know that academics are improved when children aren’t hungry,” said Diane Welsh, president of Help 4 Kids Florence. “We’re hoping that this will help with that academic growth and that children will not be hungry in school. This could not have happened without the hard work of Hannah Davis, the Food and Wine Festival Committee and the generous community who supported that fun event. It was overwhelming how much money they raised to help us feed hungry children.
Stands were put in all the district’s elementary schools and Moore Intermediate School, as well as Woods Road and R.N. Beck Child Development Centers.
Each building’s administration was able to decide on a location and a schedule that works best for their students to visit the stand for their fruit snack each day. Florence 1’s food vendor Chartwells will acquire the fruit for the schools.
North Vista Principal Sharon Dixon said that she was thrilled to have the fruit stand available for her students.
“Sometimes between breakfast and when a student goes to lunch it is four hours,” Dixon said. “Now, if they don’t have a snack from home they can get one here. We are trying to encourage them to eat healthy so it is wonderful to have this fresh fruit.”