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Programs help feed children in summer
New Summer Kids Feeding Project to help more than 500 families
Brad Cochran stacks bags of rice that will be used as part of the Summer Kids Feeding Project. - photo by Tom Reed

More than 500 local families will be getting supplementary food this summer, thanks to the new Summer Kids Feeding Project.

“The heartbreaking number is there are 5,000 kids in the school system who receive free and reduced lunch,” said Kevin Price, financial advisor for Wells Fargo Advisors in Braselton, who helped organize the project. “That’s 5,000 kids who might not get lunch this summer.”

Wells Fargo Advisors is just one of 10 Summer Kids sponsors, which include the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, the Community Food Pantry and the Gainesville City School System.

The school system identifies students at New Holland and Gainesville elementary schools who might be eligible for the program. Summer Kids aims to distribute 30 to 35 pounds of food, paid for and provided by a variety of sponsors, once a month to the families.

On Friday and Saturday, volunteers gathered at First Baptist Church to pack 560 boxes and bags with nonperishable foods in preparation for the first distribution.

“It’s heavily weighted towards fruit, meat and protein,” Price said. “Those are more expensive so we wanted to put those in there.”

Kay Blackstock, executive director of Georgia Mountain Food Bank, said the food bank also works with an established feeding program in the community.

“Feed Our Future is a joint effort between the Gainesville Junior League and the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, working to eliminate child hunger in our community,” said Julie Nicholson, vice president of Community Bank and Trust. “We worked with local school systems to find the schools with the biggest need.”

Feed Our Future began in September with 50 families, 25 each identified from Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School and Chicopee Woods Elementary School.

“We have a distribution day each month and we provide each family with two boxes of food,” Nicholson said. “It’s not enough for an entire month, but it helps.”

Nicholson said the program will soon expand to include families identified at Gainesville, Lula, Tadmore and White Sulphur elementary schools.

Gainesville City Schools will also be participating in a U.S. Department of Agriculture program called Seamless Summer from June 6-30. Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said the participating schools this summer were Gainesville Middle, Fair Street and Gainesville High.

“We feed all children under 18 for free,” said Gainesville City Schools Nutrition Director Tiffany Lommel. “The don’t have to call ahead, they just show up.”

Lommel said Seamless Summer provides breakfasts and lunches similar to what would typically be on a school menu. Adults can purchase these meals for $2.75.

“We feed anywhere from 400 to 600 students,” she said. “It provides them with a healthy meal they may not receive otherwise.”

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