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UNG to provide meals for local students in need this summer

The University of North Georgia is taking steps this summer to make sure local kids have a meal. 

This week, officials with the school began the seventh annual Summer Food Service Program to provide meals for youths in Dawson, Forsyth and Hall counties. 

“What’s been requested is 78,000 meals,” said Dana Foster, director of the program, in a news release. “But that number may be closer to 35,000 to 40,000 in actuality.”

Below are a list of dates, times and locations in Forsyth County where meals will be delivered. 

• UNG Cumming Campus, 300 Aquatic Circle, Cumming: June 4-29, Breakfast – 11-11:30 a.m.; Lunch – 2-2:30 p.m.

• Chattahoochee Elementary, 2800 Holtzclaw Road, Cumming: June 4-20, Breakfast – 8-9 a.m.; Lunch – 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. (Monday-Thursday); Supper – 4-4:30 p.m. (Fridays)

• Cumming Elementary School, 540 Dahlonega Highway, Cumming: June 4-8 and June 11-28 (Mondays through Thursdays), 

Lunch – 11:15 a.m. to noon.

• FCSB Saxony 101-103, 14th Street, Cumming (park in lot on Tribble Gap Road): Through Aug. 1, 12:15-12:45 p.m.

• FCSB Bald Ridge, 105 Ridgeview Circle: Through Aug. 1, 1-1:30 p.m.

• FCFB Glenwood Place, 1545 Atlanta Highway: Through Aug. 1, Lunch –  11:30 a.m. to noon.

Last year, 29,000 meals were served Forsyth, Gwinnett, Hall, Lumpkin, and Oconee counties over the summer, an average of about 600 meals over 40 days.

“Since this program started in 2012, we’ve served well over 100,000 meals in total,” Pamela Elfenbein, professor of sociology and human services, said in the release. 

In past years, the program provided shelf-stable and cold foods “to ensure low-income students who are food insecure receive a nutritious lunch when school is not in session.”

That will change this summer. 

“We are doing hot meals this year,” Elfenbein said. “That means they can have hamburgers and hot dogs and food like that three days a week.”

Forsyth County Schools will also provide a bus to children in three low-income areas in the county. 

“The kids look forward to having a good variety of food,” Valerie Bowers, director of Forsyth County Schools’ nutrition program, said in the release. “The kids come and congregate in the parking lot and sit and wait for the bus to arrive with the meal.”

Though some meals will be delivered, others will be transported to about 20 sites in the region. Each of those sites is an open site, meaning volunteers will “serve any child who comes to the site, not only those enrolled in their programs.”

Organizers said the program is driven by community partnerships, students in UNG’s Human Services Delivery and Administration program and local businesses. 

“You are on the front lines and it changes your perspective about food insecurity,” said UNG student Heather Morris, who has taken part in the program over a few summers. “And it drives home that I can make a change and fix things.”