North Fulton County

School communities go above and beyond to help feed students

NORTH FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — School communities across metro Atlanta are going above and beyond to help local families in need as concerns over COVID-19 continue to rise.

Channel 2′s Berndt Petersen was in Sandy Springs, where the parent-teacher organization at one middle school has launched a food-sharing program.

The PTO at Sandy Springs Charter Middle School was worried about students who get free breakfast and lunch at school. The solution? A donation system that allows people to drop off and pick up food outside a local restaurant.

“The goal was to create something simple and effective, where people can come in and donate, and families can come in and pick up,” said Melody Kelley, with the PTO.

The PTO asked the owners of the Samad Grill on Roswell Road to donate some space in their parking lot for pickups and deliveries.

"It was a no-brainer," said Samad owner Lesley Samad. "It was an easy solution to the problem."

Petersen found longtime customer Harriet Sysyn making a delivery.

“A couple of bags of oranges, a couple bags of apples,” Sysyn said. “Chocolate milk in boxes and plain milk in boxes. Peanut butter and jelly and bread.”

It's not only the middle school's families that have come to help or get help. Some parents whose children attend the local elementary school have also come by.

Darcy Bokath is a local parent and volunteer.

"A lot of people heard about it and want to come in," Bokath said. "I'm surprised, but happy everybody is sticking together like this."

Sysyn said she just wanted to make sure children wouldn't go without.

"I've been worried about what they would eat, so I've been dropping things off regularly," Sysyn said.

The PTO said it will keep the food sharing program going as long as it takes.

In Alpharetta, parents banded together to organize fundraisers to help people hit hard by the pandemic.

Channel 2′s Mike Petchenik was in North Fulton County, where school employees handed out bagged lunches to families in need. But in the days before the school started distributing meals, the community organized their own fundraiser.

“Like all schools across Metro Atlanta, we have a subset of students who rely on school to provide breakfast and lunch for them," said Martha Dinges, head of the PTO at Alpharetta Elementary School. "As soon as word came out on Thursday night that they were closing schools indefinitely it kind of was a grassroots movement of parents and neighborhoods and friends that got together, mostly texting one another and trying to figure out what we can do to help these families.”

In just a matter of hours, parents collected more than $11,000 in gift cards to help families who need it with food and other essentials.

"For everybody to come together to help one another in that short amount of time was really a beautiful thing to see," Dinges said. “It makes Alpharetta special but it’s what makes our country special.”

Alpharetta City Councilman Ben Burnett said he believes his community can do much more.

“If I can get organized enough, I’m confident that there’s the support in my city to see that all the families with food insecurity needs are taken care of over the course of the next couple of weeks," Burnett said.

Multiple metro Atlanta school systems are offering meal pickup or drops-offs while schools are closed. You can find the full list HERE.