A nearby high school found many students and their families living blocks from the police station trapped without access to food.
“This area has become a food desert for these families, many of whom don’t have vehicles to drive elsewhere,” said Amy Nelson, principal of Sanford Middle School.
School food services and public transportation are suspended throughout the city, affecting 970 school students, around 60 percent of which qualify for free or reduced lunch. Nelson decided to enter.
“We have to do something,” Nelson said.
He and his staff emailed friends and others in the community, asking them to bring a total of 85 food packages to the school parking lot Sunday morning. They asked for staples such as cereal, bread and apples, as well as diapers, detergents, and other basic necessities. The kit will be distributed to anyone who needs it.
The word drives food spread on social media and Local news, with hundreds of people offering help.
However, staff at Sanford Middle School said they anticipate no more than 150 kits will be delivered Sunday morning. But at 8am, one hour before people were supposed to deliver deliveries, the school loading dock was already full of food.
“The donations keep coming, coming, and coming,” Nelson said.
At 8:30 in the morning, a line of people who were winding waited to deliver food.
“There are miles and miles of cars carrying food, wrapped around our city block,” said Mara Bernick, family liaison for Sanford Middle School.
Hundreds of people showed up to give what they could. Some arrived in U-Haul trucks and trailers, and some came with groceries in their hands.
Soon, school property was covered with thousands of shopping bags. At the end of the day, around 30,000 food packages are sent, and more than 500 families and individuals can store their food supplies and refrigerators.
One of them is Rosy Morales, a single mother whose son is a student at Sanford Middle School. The family lived a few blocks from the 3rd Precinct police station and close to Lake Street, where several riots were taking place.
“Accessibility to food is a big problem for us right now,” Morales said. “Our normal grocery store is burned down or has been looted and closed.”
“The food was clearly very helpful to us,” he said.
By late afternoon, the school yard was filled with donations but people were still delivering food.
That’s when a neighboring business offers to become an alternative drop-off site.
“Nearby restaurants, community centers, Pilates studios and high schools open their doors and say, ‘We have you,'” Bernick said. “The community really comes together as a whole.”
Jabari Browne, a special education teacher at Sanford Middle School, said she was amazed by the number who attended.
“I tried to take everything,” he said. “That day was incredible, especially with everything that happened here in Minneapolis.”
Bernick invited Rob Williams, founder and executive director of PT The Story of Sheridan, a non-profit organization aimed at combating child hunger in Minnesota.
“I asked him if he could distribute the excess food we had collected,” he said.
Williams brought trucks and crew to school to help.
“The needs out there are really obvious,” said Williams, whose organization provides more than 100,000 meals a week to children in Minnesota.
“Before the pandemic, there were more than 200,000 children living with food insecurity in Minnesota,” Williams said. “If you add covid-19 and the current unrest is happening, there is a sudden and acute need for food.”
Not only do hundreds of people send packages, but staff, students, parents and many community members also voluntarily arrange supplies and ensure the process runs smoothly.
“People from all backgrounds and races take food and help each other,” Bernick said. “And that’s Minneapolis. That’s who we are. We look after each other.”
Williams added: “There is a lot of injustice in our states, cities, counties and systems, but to see people putting things aside and uniting to help each other – that’s what we really want.”
For Bernick, the most poignant part of the food drive was when his 17-year-old son, who volunteered, turned to him and said, “This is what I remember most from 2020.”
Excessive supplies and food – a large amount of it – are brought to distribution centers in the urban areas most affected by pandemics and protests.
“At Sanford Middle School, we are all about diversity and helping each other,” Bernick said. “These students saw what we were doing. They are the future; they are the people who will make changes. ”
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