In Bibb County, there’s a pilot program of students feeding students. It’s looking like a success



Ballard Hudson Middle School students Jalexia Maloy, left, and Jayden Parker, center, collect food during their lunch period in their roles as volunteer workers in the Helping Hands Ending Hunger program. Grant Blankenship/GPB News

Bibb County Schools are seeing success in a monthslong pilot of a program aimed at empowering students to help steer food to their hungry classmates. GPB’s Grant Blankenship has more.

Bibb County Schools are seeing success in a monthslong pilot of a program aimed at empowering students to help steer food to their hungry classmates.

The program is called Helping Hands Ending Hunger. Member schools allow teams of students to collect uneaten food from school lunch trays before it hits the trash can. Food that’s safe to save is refrigerated until Friday when it’s packed into special bags and sent home with other students who are otherwise experiencing food insecurity.

Latrina Pennamon-Nash is the principal of Ballard Hudson Middle School, one of four Bibb schools where the program has been implemented. She was one of a number of Macon principals who toured schools in Dougherty County, where the program has been in place for some time.

“And what I instantly saw was that it was something that was pretty easy to implement,” Pennamon-Nash said. “I know that there’s a lot of waste that happens in our cafeteria.”

Pennamon-Nash said the benefits were just as obvious.

“We know that kids coming to school, that they’re hungry, they can’t focus and they definitely cannot learn,” she said. “So we feel like we’re helping to bridge some of that gap.”

Two other schools in the pilot, Ingram-Pye Elementary and Southfield Elementary, are feeder schools to Ballard Hudson Middle and ultimately Southwest High School. The fourth participating school, Heard Elementary, feeds Rutland middle and high schools.

The food deemed safe to harvest includes packaged items and unopened half pints of milk as well as some whole foods like fresh fruit.

While the Macon-based nonprofit Peyton Anderson Foundation helped defray the cost of the freezers and refrigerators used to store the food, the work of organizing the program falls to student volunteers, such as Ballard Hudson seventh grade student Magali Abarca.

“This is a really good thing to do, because not only are you helping other people, but you’re helping yourself to be a better person,” Abarca said. “To show that you can actually be somebody important at this young age.”

For the program to spread to more schools in the system, principals there would first have to be convinced they need it and students would have to be persuaded to volunteer and do the work.

Sebastian Howard is a fifth grade student at Ingram-Pye Elementary. He has an elevator pitch at the ready for kids who may be nervous to take on the job.

“Be braver,” Howard said. “Be brave and fight your own thoughts.”

According to the Bibb County School district, the Helping Hands Ending Hunger pilot steered food to some 362 families in just a few months.

This story comes to The Macon Newsroom through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.