Schools in Ferguson, Missouri continued to be closed on Monday amid the ongoing community upheaval that has plagued the low-income St. Louis suburb since the police shooting of an unarmed teen—leaving many schoolchildren, normally reliant on the school-lunch program, to go hungry.
Highlighting the wide public support for the residents of Ferguson, an online fundraising campaign to help provide food for the children has raised over $62,000 in just four days.
"As the world watches the events unfolding in Ferguson, many people have thought, 'How can I help?'" wrote North Carolina public school teacher Julianna Mendelsohn, who launched the fundraiser last Thursday on the crowdfunding site Fundly.
"As a public school teacher, my first thought is always about the children involved in any tragic situation like this. When I found out school had been canceled for several days as a result of the civil unrest, I immediately became worried for the students in households with food instability," Mendelsohn continued. Schools in Ferguson were scheduled to begin last Thursday but due to the ongoing unrest were rescheduled to open on Monday. However, increased violence over the weekend has caused further delays.
"Many children in the U.S. eat their only meals of the day, breakfast and lunch, at school," Mendelsohn added. "Regardless of your opinion on the civil unrest in Ferguson, there is no need for innocent children to go hungry because of it."
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According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, last year, 68 percent of students in the district qualified for either free or reduced-cost school lunches because their family incomes were under the necessary threshold.
‟In conversations I’ve had with people at the food bank, I learned that Ferguson is one of the most food-insecure areas of the country,” Mendelsohn told the Daily Dot, saying that the area is considered a "food desert," where stores that carry healthy, inexpensive food items are rare and residents are often reliant on corner stores for their groceries.
Since the August 10th killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, social media has swarmed with reports of violent police crackdown against the mostly-black residents who have been protesting for days against the systemic racism and militarization of the local police force.
As other media has largely been barred or physically restrained from documenting the upheaval, citizens of Ferguson relied heavily on Twitter and other social media outlets to inform outsiders about what was transpiring on the streets. Mendelsohn's campaign also benefited from the connectivity of the web. Immediately after its launch, the campaign and hashtag #feedthestudents went viral and the effort raised over $20,000 in just one day.
"Holy Moley Internet!" Mendelsohn wrote on the Feed the Students blog after the campaign went viral. Saying that she had to hand over the campaign to the St. Louis Area Foodbank so that she could prepare for her first year as 5th grade teacher at Mangum Elementary in Bahama, North Carolina, she added that she was "amazed" to have been a part of "such a wonderful show of generosity and the amazing connective powers of social media."