Everyone has been forced to pivot and adapt in 2020, especially our public schools. Aside from virtual learning, schools have also had to navigate providing students with basic needs, remotely. Over the last year, it has been evident that schools are more than just a place for learning – many students rely on their school community for food, shelter and even safety.

So, how do you ensure students have their basic needs met in the middle of a pandemic?

With the majority of Metro Nashville Public Schools students living in economically challenged households, this question was especially important for us. But the Nashville community has risen to the challenge.

Following school closures, Metro Schools teamed up with long-time PENCIL Partner, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, to operate several food distribution sites on a weekly basis.

Alongside Community Achieves, PENCIL was honored to facilitate two of the food sites at our Antioch High School and Glencliff High School Family Resource Centers (FRCs), school-based hubs for community resources that assist families with social, emotional and physical needs.

With the help of many generous volunteers, unloading the food delivery truck, assembling food boxes and loading those boxes into cars, PENCIL was able to serve about 430 families on a weekly basis. In addition to nutritious meals, we have been able to provide diapers, toiletries, other household items and school supplies to families in need, thanks to generous partners, like the Kids in Need Foundation, the Nashville Diaper Connection, Turnip Green Creative Reuse and the Community Resource Center.

To aid in the distribution of meals to families, MNPS established delivery routes using their school buses. After reviewing these routes, Mary Guidry, the Family Resource Center Coordinator at Tusculum Elementary, realized that many of the students in the apartment complexes zoned for Tusculum were not on a daily meal route. Mary quickly went to work advocating for her students and was able to secure an additional bus route to serve her students and their families. The extra route continues to make meals available to approximately 375 Tusculum students plus several Overton High School and McMurray Middle School students, who live in the same communities.

“The FRC at Tusculum is an invaluable resource that we do not take for granted. One of the greatest strengths of our FRC is aligning resources with students and families in need,” said Alison McMahan, Executive Principal at Tusculum Elementary School. “Adding this new bus stop, in a time of local, national and global crisis provides an example of the dedication and diligent efforts of our Family Resource Center with Mary Guidry at its helm.”

PENCIL’s FRC Coordinators – Mary Guidry, Tusculum Elementary; Shannon Fitzpatrick, Antioch High; Bailey Tidwell, Glencliff High; and Tiffany West, Maplewood High – have worked tirelessly, alongside PENCIL Partners and volunteers, to provide additional core support to their students and families.

Because of our incredible donors, PENCIL Partners and volunteers, we have been able to distribute $484,739 worth of food and other essentials to more than 15,821 families during this challenging year.

To support PENCIL’s Family Resource Center efforts, you can sign up to volunteer for future food distribution shifts (click here) or donate (click here).