In an effort to make sure schoolchildren do not miss meals during summer break, a state agency is providing more money to expand and create new summer meal programs.
Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning’s Bright From the Start and the Georgia Food Bank Association are offering grants to support existing food programs and establish new ones in counties that have no services.
More than 840,000 students in Georgia qualify for free- or reduced-lunch, said Falita Flowers, DECALS’s nutrition programs interim director. Last summer, 19 counties had no summer meal service to help keep children fed during the school break.
“We only reach about 14 percent of those 840,000 children,” she said. “The program is well-needed.”
For groups that already operate a summer food program, grants are available to serve more meals or create a backpack program that sends children home with meals for the weekend.
Grants, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the amount of $4,000 to $20,000, can be used for food preparation, equipment, supplies, storage and meal delivery.
The need for summer food programs is typically greater in rural counties where churches, nonprofits or other organizations struggle to maintain a consistent feeding program summer to summer, Flowers said.
Columbia, Lincoln and Warren are among the 19 counties where DECAL is searching for an organization to establish a mobile feeding site such as school buses that travel to bus stops and allow children to eat on or near the bus. If school systems do not become involved, a nonprofit could use a van with portable tables and chairs, Flowers said.
In Richmond County, more than 50 summer meal sites feed children with the help of the Richmond County School System, Flowers said. A partnership with Columbia County could be established this year.