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DYP’s Secret Meals program combats child hunger

The Demopolis Young Professionals adopted the Secret Meals Program, which is facilitated by the West Alabama Food Bank to combat child hunger, in late June. In the upcoming school year, the organization is poised to support 45 children in need who were identified by school counselors at Westside Elementary School, U.S. Jones Elementary School and Demopolis Middle School.

Through the Secret Meals Program, school counselors distribute enough food to give a child dinner on Friday and three meals plus snacks on Saturday and Sunday. By walking into the office and packing the food into their backpack, the child is able to benefit anonymously.

The meals and snacks consist of healthy food that does not have to be cooked, such as cereal, chicken and rice and 100 percent fruit juice.

“It’s kid-friendly, but it’s also nutritious,” DYP President Hannah Winborne said.

DYP was approached to support the program by Amy Jones, who discovered the need within the Demopolis City Schools System when she and her husband were on their way to meet with their son’s teacher and another teacher mentioned in passing that a student had asked her for a snack before going home.

Jones said she thought of ways to help the student but knew there was a greater need. “We can buy food for this one kid but is that going to solve the problem?”

She first learned of the Secret Meals Program as a board member for United Way of West Alabama and met with program leaders to bring it to Demopolis. Though Marengo County is not in the West Alabama Food Bank’s service area, program leaders agreed to provide the food at cost and deliver it to Jones in Sumter County, who transports it to the Demopolis BOE office so school counselors can collect and distribute it.

The total cost to provide 152 meals and 76 snacks for 45 children over the course of an academic school year is $6,300. Since adopting the platform roughly five weeks ago, DYP has raised $3,400.

In the future, Jones and Winborne hope to find a way to provide meals during the summer, as well.

Fundraising and awareness efforts will continue in order to secure funding for additional students and to move the program into Demopolis High School. Jones said she hopes that once community members are aware of the need, they will be inspired to help the children and their families.

“Demopolis is a very generous community, and I feel that if people know the need is there, then they will help secure the food,” Jones said.

To support the Secret Meals Program in Demopolis, donations can be sent to Demopolis Young Professionals at the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce office, the Mustard Seed and via DYP’s Venmo account at “Demopolis-YoungProfessionals.”

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, July 31 issue of the Demopolis Times.)