Gulfport community groups providing meals for children during COVID-19 crisis

Gulfport community groups providing meals for children during COVID crisis

GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Residents have mobilized to provide meals for students at four locations across Gulfport this week.

At the Climb CDC Resource Center on Old Pass Road, they are handing out meals to children and delivering to those who don’t have transportation. The non-profit Extend a Hand, Help a Friend is prepared to serve 350 meals a day.

Volunteers are also distributing 300 meals every day this week at these locations: Emerald Pines Apartments, the Forest Heights Boys & Girls Club and Morning Star Baptist Church.

Both programs are serving from noon to 1 p.m.

Feed My Sheep is preparing 300 meals that are being handed out by volunteers recruited by State Representative Sonya Williams-Barnes.

“The Gulfport School District is out of school this week, and so we’re doing what we can to help make sure that no child has to go hungry in the city of Gulfport,” said Will Shurley, a member of the board of directors of Feed My Sheep. “Certainly we have finite resources, but we want to use them to the best of our ability— to share them as widely as possible.”

“It’s a start,” said Wiliams-Barnes, who oversaw work before driving to Jackson to participate in Legislative meetings to address the coronavirus outbreak.

“And there are others who are doing similar activities throughout the city, so hopefully our children won’t be hungry this week.”

Jeffrey Hulum III is CEO of the non-profit Extend a Hand, Help a Friend. He said his military training told him how to attack the situation.

“You’ve got to get ahead of a situation,” he said. “You’ve go to be more proactive than reactive because, in desperate times, people do desperate things. So if we can help eliminate some of the fractions and inflictions that may happen to our community, by giving them something to eat and easing their burden, that is going to help us a lot.”

Volunteers prepare meals Monday for Gulfport students at the Climb CDC Family Enrichment Center.
Volunteers prepare meals Monday for Gulfport students at the Climb CDC Family Enrichment Center. (Source: John Fitzhugh)

G-Mama House of Soul Food provided food and labor to cook.

“It is very important to lean on one another especially in a time of crisis,” said Quimby Handy of the catering company. “When the government declared a state of emergency, we decided to come together to prepare the food for the kids in the community.”

“One out of every six people in the state of Mississippi experiences hunger,” Hulum said. “Out of that one in six, one in four are children. No children should go hungry because we are in trying times, desperate times, and school is out. Most of them get their meals from school, so we are just trying to stand in the gap to help the community out.”

More than 4,000 students in the Gulfport School District receive free or reduced-price meals.

While the 650 meals these two groups are providing are meeting only a small portion of the immediate need, there is confidence that more will be done soon.

“I know that 300 is a very small number, but it’s 300 that won’t be hungry for this little while so we just appreciate what’s been done,” said Williams-Barnes. “And I do expect our school district to be able to get funding to do this as they do the summer feeding program. So that’s what we’re in hopes that soon those schools will kick in and we won’t have to do this.”

Shurley said he is not a native of Gulfport, but he is proud to be here now.

“I have never lived in a community that comes together as quickly and as fluidly to make sure that everybody gets what they need,” he said." And I think we’re in a particularly special time when you can either rise to the occasion or not, but to my opinion, Gulfport is rising to the occasion and it’s pretty wonderful.

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