Fuel Up for the Slow Down

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On the first day of closed schools, volunteers with Fuel-Up Perry Harrison stuffed take-home grocery bags for almost 50 students who rely on the school for meals.
Julie Ricker, left, supervises packing Fuel-Up bags Monday morning.

Do you know a local organization tackling food scarcity during the COVID-19 closures? Let us know with an email and we’ll add it to our list. Check back to see how you can help.

Aviva Tulasi took her time opening the rear hatch of her Subaru Monday morning, as if the food and supplies stuffed inside it might explode out if released too quickly. Inside, jammed to the car’s ceiling and all the way to the front seats, were dozens of grocery bags and boxes of beans, pasta, bread, canned goods, fruit and other dried goods,  the haul from a weekend shopping spree.

After $3,000 in donations flooded in over the weekend, Aviva Tulasi filled her car to near-overflowing from local grocery stories.
“I was getting some dirty looks at Walmart,” she says. “People knew [other] people were hoarding, and I had this cart full of all these supplies.”

She was not stocking up for her own use. Aviva is the volunteer program coordinator for Fuel-Up at Perry Harrison, which each week packs 48 backpacks with take-home food for students whose families have told school officials they face shortages at home. During normal weeks, students in the program rely on Perry Harrison to get breakfast and lunch. But when Chatham County Schools announced last weekend that schools would close on March 16 for at least two weeks, it meant those students would lose access to meals at school (UPDATE: schools will be open for breakfast). During normal school breaks, like winter holidays or spring break, Fuel-Up sends home extra food to those families.

Julie Ricker, left, supervises packing up Fuel-Up bags Monday morning.

With the COVID-19-related closings, Aviva realized they’d need the same help and for a longer period of time. She put out a call on Fuel-Up’s Facebook page, asking for cash donations. By Sunday morning, she says, more than $3,000 had poured in.

She hit the shelves at Walmart, Lowe’s and Harris Teeter for everything from canned tuna to Pop-Tarts to ramen to oranges. From the weekly backpack program, Aviva says, “we know what every kid likes and doesn’t like.”

Tatum, 10, loads tortillas in Fuel-Up bags.

Monday morning – the first hours of the school closure – a group of volunteers gathered around Aviva’s Subaru in her driveway. Aviva’s stepsons, Peter, 11 and Conor, 10; Julie Ricker, the Perry Harrison PTA‘s vice president; and sisters Jude White, 13, and Tatum White, 10. The group formed a human chain, unloaded 44 bags of groceries onto a waiting sorting table (Peter, Conor and Tatum attend Perry Harrison, while Jude is a seventh grader at Margaret B. Pollard Middle School). With about 50 grocery bags sitting ready, they systematically loaded each item. Six kids in the program have peanut allergies. Seventeen do not receive canned goods. Aviva held bags for each out and filled them separately. Using sharpies, the group labeled each bag by hand.

Though the groceries fit – barely – in Aviva’s car as bulk goods, the Fuel-Up bags filled the back of her car and another SUV. By 10:30, the bags were delivered to Perry Harrison, where parents will pick them up this week.





These organizations will need volunteers and cash donations during the COVID-19 closures. Check with each organization to see if they need specific kinds of donations (food, etc.), but monetary donations are usually preferred. Send us more at [email protected] or on our Facebook Page.


CORA Food Pantry

Fuel-Up Perry Harrison

Pittsboro Elementary Panda Packs


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