Lunch Box Connection helps bridge food gap

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published December 13, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated December 12, 2012 at 9:54 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Susan Hedin started a program in November that provides sack lunches to children and parents in the Cabot School District who might otherwise have to go hungry when school is on break. She’s organizing another session for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Meals are served in the Westside Elementary School cafeteria

— School holidays can be a nightmare for hungry children.

With school out, there’s no automatic breakfast and lunch option. For many students in the Cabot area, the food they eat at school is vital.

“There are many families struggling, and there are times that a school-provided breakfast and lunch may be the primary meals a child will receive,” said Tony Thurman, superintendent of the Cabot Public Schools.

When Cabot resident Susan Hedin heard about these students, she worried that many would have to go without enough to eat over the holidays while school was out.

“I prayed and told God if he would give me a place, I would take care of the rest,” Hedin said.

She went to Thurman with the idea for Lunch Box Connection, a program that would make lunch available to parents and students over the Thanksgiving break. Thurman suggested Westside Elementary School for the spot. More than 65 percent of the children at Westside qualify for free or

reduced-price meals, Thurman said.

“Allowing the use of Westside Elementary as a central location for the Lunch Box Connection was something our school board is pleased to be able to provide,” Thurman said.

Over four days during the school’s Thanksgiving break, Hedin and a team of volunteers served meals to around 100 people each day. Larry’s Pizza and Taco Bell in Cabot each donated food items, and volunteers rounded out the week’s menu with

peanut-butter-and-jelly and ham sandwiches. Several businesses, community organizations and churches donated money for supplies and food.

“Our first day, I got to the school at 9:30 in the morning to start making up sandwiches,” Hedin said.

Though the project had only been an idea a few weeks before, Hedin, who serves as a youth pastor at The Bridge Church, had around 30 volunteers working with her that week.

To get the word out to students, a note was sent home with students in the district the week before Thanksgiving vacation. Though volunteers weren’t sure how many people to expect, kids starting arriving as soon as they cafeteria doors opened. Though parents were welcome and a few families came together, most of the children served came to the school by themselves.

“I had one lady come up and tell me, ‘Thank you so much; we didn’t know what we were going to do this week for food,’” Hedin said.

Lunch Box Connection will return to the Westside Elementary School cafeteria from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Dec. 20, 21, 26, 27, 28 and 31; and Jan. 1 and 2 during the winter holiday vacation.

Hedin expects a bigger crowd during the winter holiday now that the word has spread about the project. Those who want to make a donation or volunteer may contact Hedin at lunchboxconnection@gmail.com.

“We are fortunate to have many wonderful individuals like Susan Hedin that want to do good things for people,” Thurman said. “We are providing the facility, but Mrs. Susan and her team are

providing the food and a lot of love.”

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or evanzandt@arkansasonline.com.

Staff Writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or emily@syncweekly.com.

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