CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An army of West Virginians is working in local communities to keep students who depend on school meals fed during the ongoing strike from the Mountain State’s teachers and school service workers.
For a 4th day, schools in all 55 counties were closed to students on Tuesday.
“We like to support our teachers,” said Freeda Canterbury, the administrative assistant at St. Andrews United Methodist Church in Parkersburg where lunch was being served daily from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“The teachers at McKinley (Elementary) School, which is across the street from the church, are preparing a hot meal for the kids and we, as a church, are preparing a take home bag,” Canterbury explained.
In those bags, “These are things that the kids can eat later on in the day.”
Since the start of the strike last week, Canterbury said they’ve been feeding an average of 40 to 50 students from McKinley along with those from schools in other parts of Wood County.
In Cabell County, Connie Miller with the Grace Food Pantry out of Huntington’s Guyandotte United Methodist Church told MetroNews they fed 90 kids on Monday during breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Bag lunches along with dinner were scheduled for Tuesday.
Cabell County schools agreed to provide the bag lunches for the duration of the strike, according to Miller.
When it comes to the work stoppage that continued Tuesday, “A lot of the kids actually understood why they were doing it so, all in all, the educational part of everything that the parents are giving them, I was really impressed,” she said.
Grace Food Pantry typically provides food to about 150 needy students from Barboursville Elementary School, Altizer Elementary School and the Explorer Academy on a weekly basis.
Dutch Miller Chevrolet donated food to pack additional backpacks last week ahead of the strike.
“I love helping my kids because that’s, of course, where my heart is,” Miller said.
These are just two examples. Students in many other parts of West Virginia are being fed during the strike at similar food service and distribution sites staffed with teachers, volunteers and others.
Cabell County’s Facing Hunger Foodbank and Braxton County’s Mountaineer Food Bank have been supporting food distribution coordination.
All feeding organizations are accepting donations.
At Parkersburg’s St. Andrews, Canterbury said they were originally paying for food for needy students out of the church budget at the start of the strike.
“When we saw it (the strike) was going to go on longer, we do a daily message from the church and we just included that in the daily message and people are responding very generously,” she said.