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Food program aims to fill small bellies
Volunteer says she is glad to help
Volunteers, from left Mary Simmons, Yvonne Gore and Randi Dyer, bag ketchup packets Saturday for the Summer Kids Program at the First Baptist Church in Gainesville. The program distributes a box of food monthly to children in need around the city. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Most children consider the end of the school year a welcome recess. But for many others, summer can mean going hungry.

Fifty volunteers representing all ages and faiths gathered Saturday morning at First Baptist Church on Green Street in Gainesville to help feed families in need.

Volunteers helped pack 560 boxes with food items like rice, spaghetti, canned goods, fruit and juice. These packages will be distributed to families in need through a new program called Summer Kids.

The program aims to help families with children who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches at school to get nutritious food throughout the summer months.

Elder Self, a missionary with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, came with two other missionaries to offer assistance.

"It always feels great to give service, and seeing a bunch of people get together to help out is just a great feeling of fellowship," Self said.

Summer Kids is a collaborative effort by many local churches, Georgia Mountain Food Bank, Community Food Pantry and others. Through donations and volunteer service, Summer Kids has been able to provide a free box of food valued at $50 to families three times this summer.

"We started looking for ways we could help in the summer because we have such a high percentage of children who qualify for free meals during the school year, so they're getting breakfast and lunch at school, but in the summer time there is a deficit," said Kay Blackstock, director of Georgia Mountain Food Bank.

Marcia Price and her husband, Kevin, organized Summer Kids. Price said the inspiration for the new program came from a holiday food drive at the United Methodist Church.

"The whole thing started when we did a Christmas project, and when Kevin approached the school system to see how we could do a better job next Christmas, they said one of the biggest problems is getting help through the summer," Marcia Price said.

Price called Summer Kids a pilot program and is certain the program will be improved next year. She said she feels the program is "the real thing."

"When you see people come and pick up the boxes, and you see how far they've come for a box of dented cans, you know it makes a difference," Price said.

Lisa Bozeman and her daughters helped by bagging packages of ketchup for the food packages.

She said she is glad to help and would like to do more.

"I think that there's certainly a lot of people struggling with hunger and we just close our eyes to it," she said. "But if you just look around a little bit, you can see it's there."

Blackstock was glad to see the volunteers gather together to help feed hungry children, saying it has been amazing to watch.

"Just goes to show if you try to something by yourself, you're not going to get as much done as when you bring the whole community together," Blackstock said.

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