Derek catches a few hours of shuteye himself before he wakes at 5 a.m. to get his oldest daughter, Francine, up and ready for school.
By the time he drops Francine off at Clyde C. Miller Career Academy, Derek has just enough time to rush back home to pick up his son, Derek Jr., and his younger daughter, Kristine.
Derek drops the younger two off at Ashland Elementary School before he is finally able to go home. Then, he spends much of his day attending to household chores – laundry and paying bills – until it is time to pick the kids back up from school. He also picks up his youngest daughter, Brandy, who was adopted by his sister.
As a single father, Derek admits it is a struggle to afford and prepare nutritious meals for his children. That’s why he relies on the St. Louis Dream Center food pantry and after-school program.
Each day after school, Derek’s children get a brown bag of food from volunteers at the Dream Center.
On a street corner just outside the Dream Center, volunteers hand out brown bags of food to the children who flock there from neighborhood schools. In all, the Dream Center hands out meals to more than 800 children every school day.
Derek is grateful for this sack lunch because it provides his children with a guaranteed meal for their supper. At school, his children receive free breakfast and lunch.
He buys as many groceries as he can afford, but visits the Dream Center’s food pantry twice a month to help put food on the table.
For the last four years, Derek has worked in security at Metro Transit. His night shift isn’t always convenient, but it allows him to transport his children to and from school. Otherwise, the kids would have to walk home – the district buses won’t pick them up because they live within a mile of the school. “You have to have transportation for the kids,” Derek says. “My kids have perfect attendance at school.”
Derek, who calls himself “Mr. Mom,” helps out in the community when he can. He sometimes fills in for the crossing guard that safely guides the children across the street from the school to the Dream Center’s after-school feeding program.
“I think the Dream Center was put in my path for a reason” Derek says. “I can buy some groceries but it doesn’t stretch all the way. So it is a big help that they’re there for you.”
Derek shared his story in March 2013 with Bethany Prange, communications coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank. His personal circumstances may have changed since the original interview.