Food for the taught

Plenty of schools hold food drives for charity. Not many enlist parent volunteers to feed their children's classmates.

Plenty of schools hold food drives for charity. Not many enlist parent volunteers to feed their children's classmates.

But at the International Community School, this kind of support - and connections made that help acclimate fellow parents to American life - are part of the mission, says Sister Patty Caraher, who helped found the food co-op in 2005 and continues to be its chief fundraiser.

On Wednesday morning, the dozen parent and staff volunteers who make up the co-op gathered at ICS for the first time this year. They spread tarps along the sidewalk outside the building, under the names of some of ICS's neediest families. Below each sign, a pile of orange juice, yogurt, lentils, onions, fresh bread grew - provisions bought from the Atlanta Food Bank, produce bought at the state Farmer's Market, and donations by volunteers.

Twelve families would eat well that night.

The co-op aims to bring supplementary monthly food to a new batch of families each school year. This fall, several families from last year still had great need, so four new ones, two of whom have been in the country just weeks, with few resources at their disposal, wound up on the waiting list.

With a budget of $400 per month, there's enough food for several more families. Volunteers are the limiting factor, says Maureen Wallin, the mother of two ICS students, who's heading the group this year. The co-op pairs one volunteer with each family. That way, they don't just deliver milk and potatoes: They stay for tea, get handed a baby, ask a question, look at photos, and families start to bring out school forms that have puzzled them, or mail that might or might not contain crucial information, and a relationship starts to grow.

When the last of the food was sorted, volunteers said friendly goodbyes. A few arranged play-dates between their kids. Then they loaded their trunks and headed out to meet their families.

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