Can we still feed the kids?
The day the governor shut down the schools to protect families from the COVID-19 epidemic, Big Ugly Community Center Director Tami Boling called the main office to work through the logistics of maintaining our after school food program. A few calls to our funders, and our vendors, and we immediately shifted to delivering meals, particularly to the isolated hollows in Lincoln and Logan counties and to housing developments in Charleston, where families frequently lacked transportation to the school system’s food pick up points.
In the first 6 months of the COVID-19 pandemic,
Step by Step delivered 70,000+ meals to children in need.
Food Security has been a core mission of Step by Step since we opened the doors of the Big Ugly Community Center in 1995 and community members sold hot dogs and hosted a fall carnival to purchase a stove to provide hot meals for our Pre-K program.
Step by Step provided a full hot supper and snacks long before there were state and federal funds to reimburse us for that food. Through VISTA placed with partners and our own after school and summer sites, we have started over 40 new after school and summer food programs and we now serve an average of over 50,000 meals each year.
In 2012, we started working with families in Lincoln and Logan counties to raise their own food through a partnership with Berea College’s Grow Appalachia. We now average 100 gardening households per year who raise as much as 100,000 pounds of vegetables for their families and neighbors.
This work has led to our reputation for reaching families most in need. In 2020-2021, four different funders approached us and asked us to apply for COVID relief funds for those families. One final story underscores the depth of our commitment and reputation: in July 2011, the derecho wiped out power across West Virginia. Our summer programs were the only ones in the state that did not miss a day of service. At our site at South Park Housing Development, a third of the families had no place to go and our VISTA were the only people who continued to distribute food and provide meals throughout the week without electricity (culminating with the lights going back on in the midst of a 4th of July community barbecue).
At Big Ugly, despite there being no way to reach the Center with phones down, our bus drivers showed up the next morning with students from their routes. They explained: