On September 13th the Appalachian Food Project officially started having an impact on local school children. With the delivery of apples to classrooms in The Plains Elementary, students in the school began having a healthy snack available to them whenever they need it. A week later, granola bars were also delivered.
The initiative is the brainchild of Athens High School seniors Audrey Crowl, Alex Collins, Katey Broy and Lauren Abdella. The four friends have been giving back to their community since their days at East Elementary, where they established the Friendship Foundation to organize support for local projects. Crowl remembers the lemonade stand she set up in front of her house when she was in Kindergarten to raise money for those in New Orleans impacted by Hurricane Katrina.
“I started out just wanting to have a lemonade stand. But when I began attracting a lot of the neighborhood to my stand and realized I was collecting a fair amount of money, and also was hearing about what Katrina was doing to New Orleans, I decided to keep my stand open all weekend and contribute the earnings to the relief effort. It felt great to send over fifty dollars to a Louisiana food bank.”
When the girls were in middle school they heard about the efforts of Abby Cornwell, whose Apples from Abby program provided a healthy snack to East Elementary students, and they were impressed with her accomplishments. “Abby’s program was great,” said Abdella, “and we thought we could do something similar. We had learned about how much food insecurity was an issue in Southeast Ohio and we wanted to do something to help.”
In 2017, during the summer before their junior year, the group began planning their effort seriously. Initially they hoped to have a program started that fall that would provide healthy snacks to all local schools. After meeting with school officials and establishing a budget, however, they realized that the logistical and fundraising requirements to support such a large program could not be met so quickly and they would have to modify and delay their launch.
Early in 2018 the four friends began preparing for the work they would have to accomplish over the spring and summer if their program was to become a reality. They set up a GoFundMe page, sold homemade scarfs, visited dozens of local businesses for financial support and distributed collection jars around the community. “The community’s support of the Project was inspiring,” said Crowl, “we’re so lucky to have grown up among people who really care about each other.” By the late summer their efforts had resulted in over six thousand dollars of donations and the Appalachian Food Project’s first initiative, Snacks for Schools, was becoming a reality.
“It took a lot more work than any of us realized, and it’s still a lot of work to keep it going, but it is incredibly rewarding to see the kids enjoying the snacks we are providing,” Collins remarked.
Currently the Snacks for Schools program is only being offered at The Plains Elementary. The senior girls visit the school weekly to replenish supplies and to speak with students, teachers and staff about how things are going. Ideally they would like to have the funding and logistical support necessary to have the program available at all local elementary schools, but for now they are pleased with what they have accomplished and are working toward ensuring that the program can extend beyond their time in the Athens City School District.
“We don’t want this program to end when we graduate,” said Broy. “It’s a significant time commitment to run, and we will work hard to recruit the next generation of concerned students to keep it going. Food, especially healthy food, is so important to learning and being successful and we just want students to have what they need to thrive.”
For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/TheAppalachianFoodProject/