School Pantry Update: Riverview Middle School
Just a few hills separate my home in Concord from the often forgotten community of Bay Point. As I make my way through Bailey Road, cross cutting the hills, the surrounding environment changes. Anyone who has made this drive understands the stark transition. Two-story homes are swapped out for trailer parks, the well-kept green grass fades away, and cars disappear from the streets.
Embedded in the heart of Bay Point is Riverview Middle School, home to the Vikings. It is also home to a highly diverse body of students, 90% of whom are on free or reduced lunch. This statistic along with the unparalleled obstacles students must face makes Riverview Middle School an outlier among other schools in the Mount Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD).
As Principal Eric Wood remarked
“Our students demonstrate a maturity and resilience to combat the unique obstacles they face. Many students come from single-parent households, poverty-stricken families, and are hungry as they make their way to school. It’s not at every school that you have to assure students that their families won’t be torn apart because of a parent’s citizenship status. Some issues are unique.”
Principal Wood, who lives only a few houses down from me in Concord, lives the transition daily during his commute.
“Violence is widespread in Bay Point. There was just a murder down the street a few weeks ago. If it was Concord, you’d hear about it. In many ways, Bay Point is a forgotten community”
While the community might seem invisible to some, Riverview Middle School is making a change in the culture and giving voice to those who bring out the best in the community.
As I spent more time with Principal Wood, he spoke enthusiastically about his staff’s ability to be emotionally accessible to students, shared anecdotes about home visits, and gave me a tour through their supply rooms where they keep backpacks and uniforms ready for students who need it most.
“There was a single parent who told us that she leaves for work at 5 am and doesn’t know if her son goes to school. So, we had her drop off a spare key and if the student didn’t show up, we’d get in our car and know where to go. That’s a community”.
Before any student can fully focus on school work they need to be free from worry about basic needs like safety, shelter, clothing, and of course, having enough to eat. Hunger and food insecurity gets in the way of good health and learning. Not have enough, or enough healthy food every day inhibits a student’s ability to reach their academic potential. This is where White Pony Express steps in. Principal Wood explained, with a big smile on his face,
“Before White Pony Express, we provided a lot of services for our students. However, working with them has been a cherry on top. They are friggin’ awesome. There are 12 Riverview moms who spearhead the whole process every Tuesday and Thursday. They are consistent and never miss a delivery ensuring that food is sorted and distributed in an equitable manner. They are the best of our community”.
It was in this moment, I had an epiphany. Much like White Pony Express, the staff and team at Riverview Middle embrace a single mantra, “All of us, taking care of all of us”. With this mindset, a community, even when seemingly forgotten, can survive and even thrive, because of the generosity that permeates within it. It is our innate obligation to our neighbors that compels us to uplift those who are in need.
As Principal Wood began to walk me out, he shared one final story that reinforced this epiphany.
“During one of the first WPE food deliveries, I recognized the driver. He was a student of mine when I taught Special Education at Glenbrook. It was in that moment, I knew that this partnership was meant to be. It’s all of us taking care of all of us.”