Local schools and colleges are banding together this summer to provide free meals to children in need throughout Forsyth County and north Georgia.
When students from low-income families are not in class for the summer, the free or reduced price meals they receive also stop.
“A lot of times, kids don’t have access to a well-balanced meal every day, so this provides them this opportunity. It keeps them going through the summer,” said Valerie Bowers, food and nutrition director for Forsyth County Schools. “It’s highly important that they keep up their health and well-being so that when school comes around they can come back well-nourished and ready to get back to school.”
The University of North Georgia is participating in a summer food program that distributes meals at a number of locations in six counties, serving thousands of meals and helping to fill the gap left by the absence of school meals.
“I think last year about 40,000 meals were distributed through the whole program,” Bowers said.
The school system works with UNG to make meals from a local school kitchen that program staff pick up and deliver at listed sites.
“Lunches have to meet meal pattern regulations, so they’ll be like ham and cheese sandwiches and fruits and vegetables,” Bowers said.
Any child 0-18 years old can receive a meal, and they do not need to register.
Though only about 17 percent of the public school population participates in the free/reduced lunch program, meals will be delivered throughout the summer at three locations. Habersham, Hall, Jackson, Lumpkin and Oconee counties also participate in the summer meal program.
“With our partnership with UNG,” Bowers said, “we hope to grow the program throughout Forsyth County and continue to look at it and reach other areas in Forsyth, as well.”