March 2021 marked one year since we started to feel the drastic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has revealed that early action is pertinent for managing health crises. Many Americans were shocked to witness the fragility of our healthcare system and how unprepared our government leaders were during a time of crisis. Throughout the year, misinformation and disinformation was rampant, quality of treatment and the death toll highlighted disparities in healthcare due to race and income, jobs were lost, and businesses closed, and we saw an uptick of racialized violence towards Asian Americans in part due to the former president’s continued use of the term “China virus.” The country was in trouble. However, states, cities, and organizations, including Be Mighty, took action to provide some normalcy and continue supporting the community during challenging times.
The spread of COVID-19 has impacted Be Mighty’s meal service, community engagement, and strategic initiatives. However, to embrace the new normal, Be Mighty committed to virtual nutrition education, socially distant food distributions, and consistently provided readily available meals at library branches.
April of 2020 was our busiest month in terms of meals served. We served a combination of breakfast, lunch, and supper, with a total of 19,968 meals served that month. Between the months of March and August we served between 12,000 and 20,000 meals each month. September to December of 2020 required us to rethink our outreach. Most students were starting school virtually, which led to a substantial drop in the number of meals served. However, meal sites remained open, even during the deadliest seasons of the pandemic.
To reach more families, we partnered with Well Fed Arkansas and hosted food box distributions in November and December. Each produce box contained 30 pounds of fresh food along with easy healthy recipe sheets.. With the help of our dedicated volunteers, we were able to distribute 550 boxes of fresh food to Little Rock families. The food distribution was a successful way for us to provide immediate support to the community. We continued to partner with organizations in the community during the holiday season. The restaurant, @ The Corner donated several family-style meals to low-income families during Thanksgiving.
Our community outreach did not stop after the holiday season! In January 2021, we were able to host a Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Virtual program to inform Little Rock youth about the importance of civic engagement. On January 18, 2021, the virtual event streamed via Zoom, YouTube, and Facebook Live. The first one hundred people to register received a free copy of Congressman John Lewis’s “March: Book 1” illustrated by North Little Rock native Nate Powell, who joined us for the virtual discussion. He discussed his career as an illustrator and his relationship with the late Congressman Lewis. We also learned from Little Rock’s public service leaders Mayor Frank Scott Jr., City Director Antwan Phillips, Senator Joyce Elliott, Chief Education Officer Dr. Jay Barth, and Arkansas Peace & Justice Memorial Movement co-directors Kwami and Clarice Abdul-Bey. As part of the event, students also had the opportunity to participate in a national service meet and greet that introduced them to AmeriCorps State, VISTA, and National Civilian Community Corps. This event was a success. We reached over 200 youth in the city and collaborated with the Little Rock School District, Mount St. Mary Academy, Episcopal Collegiate School, Pulaski Academy, and Catholic High School to increase student attendance.
In the month of January, we also welcomed our first Farm Corps member. Farm Corps is an AmeriCorps program with the purpose to confront food insecurity and strengthen communities through farming, outreach, and teaching. Our Farm Corps member, Katie Matthews, will help us with gardening projects and farm education curriculum such as Growing My Plate. Growing My Plate is a 6-week course designed to connect students to where their food comes from, build enthusiasm for fruits and vegetables, and give them confidence to make their own healthy dishes at home. The goal of the program is to connect students with the garden and inspire them to cook and prepare healthy food at home.
The last year has been tumultuous. To honor the lives lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, former Be Mighty Coordinator Kay Kay DeRossette joined Mayor Frank Scott Jr. and others from around the city on March 12, 2021, to commemorate one year of partnering for pandemic relief. During the event, city leaders paused for a moment of silence to honor all the community members that are no longer with us. We also celebrated the sense of community that was created through pandemic relief programs, which included food distributions. It was clear that there are many people in Little Rock who care for one another and are looking forward to the days to come—when more people are vaccinated, and the virus is no longer a threat. View the entire ceremony here.