ROCKINGHAM COUNTY — Staff members at Rockingham County Schools worked arduously this week to serve over 5,500 meals for needy students who remain home following a COVID-19 precaution mandate set by Gov. Roy Cooper last Sunday.
In unison, a team of united community members are “Rocking the Pantry” to supplement the school district’s efforts by providing non-perishable food and supplies that can also be delivered directly to students and families in desperate need.
The food drive, initiated by The Good Stewards of Rockingham and Dan Riverkeeper Steven Pulliam, is in collaboration with local schools and Floyd Baptist Church in Eden.
Drop-Off boxes have been placed outside of several local businesses and municipal buildings in Eden, Mayodan, Madison, Stoneville and Reidsville.
Unable to sit idle, Pulliam said he began the project to collect food during a discussion with a friend about how they could assist families who rely on the school system for their children’s sustenance during the temporary school closure.
After brief discussion, the father of two began his mission — to work with others to stock additional food resources in the pantries of tireless school nutrition workers, who have continued work weekdays to provide lunch and breakfast for students at three county feeding stations.
“The distribution was already in place and the school system has done an excellent job tackling this when it’s a situation in which there is no way to prepare for it,” said Pulliam. “… There are people lining up to feed students at the schools. They are getting on buses and delivering meals to people that don’t have transportation and they are listening to their needs. The one thing that was missing from this perfect scenario was that they don’t have the resources and the materials to supply dinners or weekend meals, since the buses aren’t running on weekends.”
So Rock the Pantry volunteers collected 45 canned goods, eight pounds of rice, four boxes of pancake mix, peanut butter, toilet paper, tissues and other supplies from distribution sites on day one.
Day two saw officers with the Mayodan Police Department donate several bags of groceries, while other volunteers dropped of 15 dozen eggs.
Monetary donations also began flowing in, allowing Pulliam to stock up on basic staples.
“People have stepped up,” said Pulliam. “We’ve heard of a lot of sad situations that are happening. In this county — a lot of us live paycheck to paycheck — a lot of people are on disability and so maybe once a month they are getting a check.
“It’s not a reality that these people can hoard supplies or stock up in some circumstances. By the time they do have money to buy essential needs, then what they are going to purchase or need isn’t there.”
Thus far, the drive has been able to help several families.
Regional statistics show that about 8,500 citizens in Rockingham County are termed “food insecure” and lack the money and resources to keep a full household fed.
Of that number, nearly half are from the county’s most vulnerable populations — over 60 or under 18.
Thus far, Pulliam said some donated food has gone to a blind mother without resources to get help and her family.
Another delivery from the school system helped an elderly person who is raising young grandchildren, but unable to get out of the house.
“In all that Good Stewards does and all that I do in my position for Good Stewards — we are trying to create a healthy environment, maintain it and improve it and the people that are going to do that is our children — that’s who is going to make the difference, that’s whose going to be here to take our place,” said Pulliam.
“It’s hard for our communities to set a good example if they go unfed or feel like they are ignored. This isn’t a time to panic or hoard supplies for yourself. It’s time to be a community, to help each other and work together to help your neighbors, friends and family. That’s the pillars of our core. That’s what we should do as decent human beings.”
To learn more about Rock the Pantry, including drop-off points and how to volunteer, visit http://danriverkeeper.org.