Oak Grove ES Principal Penny Valle, left, Yvonne Byars with MUST Ministries, Michelle Quay with Woodstock Rotary and Superintendent Dr. Brian Hightower cut the ribbon to open the new food pantry.
Oak Grove ES Fine Arts Academy officially opened its school-based food pantry Monday with a ribbon cutting and reception with partners and volunteers. The food pantry is a partnership with MUST Ministries, which has opened more than three dozen school-based food pantries in Cobb and Cherokee counties, including one at Hasty ES Fine Arts Academy in 2018; another school-based pantry will officially open next month at Cherokee HS.
“We are investing in the lives of families here at Oak Grove Elementary School,” said Yvonne Byars, Senior Director of MUST Ministries’ Neighborhood Pantries. “This is our 37th school-based food pantry, and Cherokee High School will be our 38th in January.”
Oak Grove Principal Penny Valle thanked the many supporters of the project, including Woodstock Rotary Club, which has provided funding to help make the dream a reality. “Our School Council, PTA, area churches, Etowah High School students and other community supporters have been key to getting the project off the ground,” said Ms. Valle. “Staff support has also been essential, including Ana Mirsajedin, Oak Grove Elementary School Parent Engagement Facilitator, as well as our counselor, teachers and school custodian lead.
“Our community partners and Oak Grove faculty and staff have helped champion this in so many ways,” said Ms. Valle. “It’s opened so many avenues for us to serve and assist families in need.”
The food pantry will enable the school to offer regular monthly provisions for families as well as additional food items for school breaks when students who depend on the regular meal service they receive at school might otherwise go hungry. Almost two-thirds of Oak Grove students qualify for free or reduced price meals.
“Kids can’t learn when they are hungry, families can’t function when they are so financially stressed,” said Dr. Brian V. Hightower, Superintendent of Schools, to the group of volunteers and supporters. “We want to be a community school system; we can’t do it alone – and we don’t want to. From my heart and the hearts of my staff, thank you.”
Note: A photo gallery from the event can be found at https://www.cherokeek12.net/DistrictGallery.aspx?CategoryId=252&schoolid=0