The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

November 22, 2013

Class discussion, reality lead to W. Edgecombe food drive


TARBORO — It’s no secret that food is fuel for young minds. Toshia Manning, seventh-grade teacher at West Edgecombe Middle School, recalled this fact when she noticed a student was worried about his family going hungry. Manning jumped into action.  

“Mrs. Manning’s Language Arts class is both demanding and fun,” said Tanner Wittig, a student in Manning’s class. “It’s very important that we keep up with our assignments.”  

With that thought in mind, one student confided that he was having difficulty focusing on his schoolwork. When Manning investigated, she discovered the troubling reason for the student’s lack of focus: the young man wondered when and from where he would find his next meal.

The timing coincided with the recent government shutdown, when many families found themselves in peril, as gaps in governmental assistance programs loomed. Manning realized that other students might be in similar situations and decided to help by initiating a school-based food drive.

For the next two weeks, the West Edgecombe student body collected canned food for those in need.

Stephanie Brown, a sixth-grade mathematics teacher, used the food drive to educate her students on how to help struggling families. “We talked about how everyone looks forward to big family meals during the holidays,” Brown said. “The fact is that there are families that aren't able to do those things without help.”  

The students in Brown's sixth-grade homeroom class were some of the most active participants in the food drive. “I learned from this experience that it’s good to help people that are in need,” expressed Jionna Cannon, a student in Brown’s class. Another sixth-grader, Joseph Roach, said, “You should help people without expecting a reward in return so that when you’re in need, others can help you.”

Students donated enough food to fill five large boxes, and the proceeds were given to the United Community Ministry in Rocky Mount for distribution to local needy families.

Theresa Alston, another West Edgecombe faculty member, also participated in the effort, encouraging her students to do the same. “The food drive provided our school children with a sense of giving,” Alston said. “They were worried about other students who might not have food.”

“Mrs. Manning was able to take an unfortunate situation and use it to bring our school together for a worthy cause,” added West Edgecombe Principal Donita Gregory. “The food drive helped provide nourishment for neighbors in need while providing our students with valuable lessons about helping those less fortunate than themselves.”