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DFR, Young Professionals team up to distribute meals to children

The Demopolis Fire & Rescue Department recently joined the Demopolis Young Professionals organization to provide weekly meals for children in need. The Secret Meals program is intended for Pre-K through twelfth grade children facing food insecurity in the community. The Demopolis City School system started providing the Secret Meals program at the start of the 2019-2020 academic year.

DFR members are set up to give meals as recipients drive through the station.

The program began with students receiving weekend meals from the school system. Amy Jones, a coordinator for the program, and her husband Mike Jones would drive to Northport every two weeks to pick up the meals and deliver them to the DCS Board of Education. The board office would then coordinate the delivery of the meals to the schools. However, with the outbreak of COVID-19 closing schools nationwide and preventing many from traveling, the Young Professionals organization took steps to keep supplying the meals.

They reached out to Mayor John Laney, who then reached out to the DFR as an alternative way of transporting the meals from the West Alabama Food Bank in Northport, Alabama. Chief Keith Murray and his team were more than willing to help out.

“Mayor Laney approached us and asked if we could help out, and we said ‘yeah,’” Chief Murray said. “We know the police department is busy patrolling, and I think one of the big things is that we probably had the better availability to do it.”

Amy Jones said that 250 bags of food were distributed to children in the community on Wednesday, April 1. Each package of food consists of two breakfast items, shelf-stable milk, two meals, two snacks/fruits, and two drinks. The number of bags distributed may vary from week to week.

Due to the threat of COVID-19, people were asked to remain in their cars to minimize contact, and firefighters wore gloves and masks to protect themselves while passing out packages.

“Our station is an open-air facility so we could have practiced social distancing. But we felt it was safer if everyone stayed in their cars to avoid person to person contact,” said Chief Murray.

Murray also said that the Secret Meals program will continue throughout the summer as long as the food bank can continue providing food. The initial plan from the mayor was to provide food until school begins in the fall.

The Young Professionals group raises the funds to provide the meals throughout the school year. The cost to provide Secret Meals to one child for the entire academic year is $140. Members of the Demopolis community can donate funds to any member of the group. Donations will be used to fund the increase of needed meals during the pandemic. They will also be used to fund the program for the 2020-2021 academic year.