The Kids in Ferguson Aren't All Right, So a Teacher Set Up a Campaign to Feed Them

Feel helpless about the chaos? Here's something anyone can do to send good vibes right now.

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Staff Writer Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at GOOD.

The past eight days of unrest have been uneasy for people living in Ferguson, Mo.

That includes the more than 11,000 preschoolers through 12th graders enrolled in the city’s public schools, who were scheduled to start classes Aug. 14. But according to the Ferguson-Florissant School District, because of worries over “children walking to school or waiting for buses on streets impacted by this activity, debris on the roads that could impact transportation, and continued disruption affecting our students and families in the area,” campus doors have yet to open.

The delay has had an impact beyond academics. Families that rely on school-based free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch to feed their children have been left without resources. That’s where Julianna Mendelsohn, a fifth-grade teacher in Bahama, N.C., figured she could help.

Late last week the savvy instructor teamed up with the St. Louis Area Foodbank and launched a crowdfunding campaign that has, as of this writing, raised nearly $60,000 to feed hungry kids and their families in Ferguson. 

“As a public school teacher, my first thought is always about the children involved in any tragic situation like this,” wrote Mendelsohn on the crowdfunding page. “When I found out school had been canceled for several days as a result of the civil unrest, I immediately became worried for the students in households with food instability. Many children in the U.S. eat their only meals of the day, breakfast and lunch, at school. With school out, kids are undoubtedly going hungry.”

The need in Ferguson is there. According to the Brookings Institution, by the end of 2012, “roughly one in four residents lived below the federal poverty line ($23,492 for a family of four in 2012), and 44 percent fell below twice that level.”

All funds that are donated are transferred to the Greater St. Louis Area Food Bank, which then connects with local families. Mendelsohn wrote that she has been “amazed to have been a small part of what has been such a wonderful show of generosity." Because of the great need, she has not set an end date for the campaign. “I am eager to see how much further it can go with the folks at the St. Louis Food Bank and will post updates of how the money we've—or I should say you've—raised is helping children in the Ferguson/Florissant area,” she wrote. 

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