2018 Caring Square

Eight years ago at Mellichamp Elementary School, a group of community volunteers led by Heather Bernardo began collecting food to send home with students at the end of the week to ensure they had adequate food and nutrition over the weekend.  That program, known as “Into the Mouths of Babes”, recognized that although students eat breakfast and lunch at school, many are not eating anything nutritious (and in some cases anything at all) over the weekend until they return to school on Monday.  Over the next several years, three other schools in the district developed similar programs.
In March of 2016, a coordinated effort led by Cindy Clark was undertaken to develop a districtwide food pantry program for all of the district’s schools.  Joining forces with the volunteers from “Into the Mouths of Babes”, the program became known as the “Filling Station”.  During its first week of existence, a food drive was implemented and donations sufficient to feed fifty-three (53) children over the weekend were received.  From that humble beginning, donations and volunteer services to the Filling Station have grown every week and the program now collects and distributes food for the weekend to nearly 1,000 children every Friday.
According to data provided by Feeding America, a nationwide network of foodbanks and the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity, 24.2% of the children in Orangeburg County struggle to get enough to eat.  Using this data, and based upon the current student enrollment in OCSD5, approximately 1,600 children in our schools do not regularly have access to adequate nutrition and meals.  Although the Filling Station is meeting the needs of many students, an unmet demand remains.
Hayward Jean, the Principal at Mellichamp Elementary School, has seen the impact that hunger can have on student learning and performance.  “The Filling Station and Into the Mouths of Babes do more than feed our children’s bodies, they also feed their souls,” he said.  He continued, “Every week this program is filling our student’s hearts with love, which in turn empowers our students for academic success.  When a child knows they are loved and valued consistently, they will live up to the expectations placed upon them.”
“Children who are hungry are not prepared to learn, suffer from attendance problems, and are prone to illness and health problems,” said Superintendent Dr. Jesse Washington.  He added, “I am so appreciative of the efforts of our volunteers and donors, our students are the true beneficiaries of their generosity.”
Donations of food items are received at a warehouse facility located behind the OCSD5 District Office on Ellis Avenue and are packaged for delivery to schools by volunteers every Friday morning.  The food items are distributed to needy students every Friday during the school year.  Popular food items are those that come in individual serving sizes and include single servings of fruit in light syrup, whole grain cereal/granola bars, individual cereal boxes, and canned food with protein like spaghetti and meatballs or ravioli.
The Filling Station is 100% supported by donations and volunteers.  Any individuals or organizations desiring to donate food, volunteer their time, or make monetary donations are encouraged to contact Dr. Jacqueline Inabinette at 533-7948 or [email protected] .  

At the 2018 Convention, we are asking for monetary donations that will go toward "The Filling Station". Be sure to stop by the Caring Square booth so you can contribute to this awesome program! 

Click HERE to watch a video about the Filling Station!