Atlanta Community Food Bank partners with school for monthly program

bagged onions and other food sit on tableA little rain didn’t stop one group of volunteers, community partners and DeKalb County School District (DCSD) staff from aiding their community.

The new Early Learning Center at Terry Mill—located at the former Terry Mill Elementary at 797 Fayetteville Road in Atlanta—celebrated its partnership with the Atlanta Community Food Bank by hosting a food pantry event on the afternoon of October 25.

Once per month, the Early Learning Center expects to provide one large entrée, multiple canned goods, snacks, cooking ingredients, produce, and more. The food items—which arrive at the facility by the pallet—come courtesy of the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

According to Early Learning Center director Dr. Zack Phillips, this partnership is the first of many steps in transforming the new facility into a “community school,” or a school that holistically serves the community in all facets.

“We’re offering resources to the community,” Phillips said. “We continue to try to support the family unit at home as well as the community overall. This is part of [Superintendent/CEO Dr. R. Stephen Green’s] vision of providing ‘wrap-around’ services.”

Phillips said the Atlanta Community Food Bank will bring in new foods each month to keep the menu fresh and the community well-accommodated. He said the food provided can last anywhere from one weekend to one full school week.

The food pantry initiative garnered strong support from the Early Learning Center parent community. The majority of volunteers on October 25 came from the parent community, and many stayed until well past 3 p.m. to ensure anyone in need was taken care of.

“This an extremely heartfelt and warm initiative,” Phillips said. “We believe in being servant-leaders in all of our roles here at the Early Learning Center, not only by educating our students but being able to provide for our community. It’s great to see the expressions from our parents as they come to pick up students. Everyone is on one accord, and we all understand the mission.”

According to Phillips, benefits from similar programs can be seen almost immediately.

“Students are excited,” Phillips said. “The nutritional component plays a big role as well. When students come to school well-fed, not worried about where their next meal may be coming from, they can focus concentrate on academics.”

John West and Dr. Zack Phillips smile while standing Jon West with the Atlanta Community Food Bank said the Early Learning Center is the first early childhood education facility the organization has worked with.

“We appreciate the DeKalb County School District and the Early Learning Center for showing us how this may differ from a traditional school setting,” West said. “We’re really excited, as this is very important to do during a child’s early, formative years. We’re happy to provide these resources earlier in a student’s life.”

According to Phillips, The Early Learning Center at Terry Mill is in the process of creating even more community partnerships. The center is in talks with DeKalb County Health Department as well as the Division of Family & Children Services to offer even more services for community families.

“We’re ready to move forward and have a lot of services for our kids and for our families,” Phillips said. “We want to be a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all of our parents, where they can make sure to obtain an education for their kids as well as anything else they need. We’re excited to have this come to fruition.”