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GMFB Hosts Kickoff Event for Summer Feeding Program

 Georgia Mountain Food Bank’s Summer Feeding Program Expands to Feed More Children in Hall and Lumpkin Counties

 Georgia Mountain Food Bank(GMFB) launched its Summer Lunch Bag Program with a kickoff event at the Hall County Boys & Girls Club- Downy Club in Gainesville on June 7.  

It is estimated that 13.2 percent of Hall County and 15 percent of Lumpkin County families report “difficulty affording food.” In fact, in Gainesville City, Hall County and Lumpkin County Schools, the number of children qualified to receive free or reduced meals hovers at 60 percent.
In order to ensure that some of the counties most at-risk children receive healthy summer lunches for the eight-week break from school, GMFB is partnering with University of North Georgia in the Summer Feeding Service Program (SFSP), a program of the United States Department of Agriculture Nutritional Division.  Through this partnership, GMFB plans to provide healthy lunch meals to 500-700 kids each day throughout the summer break in Hall County and Lumpkin County.

“It is our task to not only provide food to these children, but healthy and nutritious meals” says Kay Blackstock, executive director of GMFB.  “ Last year, our program was able to feed just more than 13,000 meals to children at our sites in Lumpkin and Hall Counties.  This year, through our partnership with University of North Georgia, we expect those numbers to double.”  
Summer feeding sites supported by GMFB are targeted to provide the under-served children and neighborhoods.  This year the sites include:

Hall County:
Boys & Girls Club – Downey Club
Boys & Girls Club – J.W. Walters Club
R.I.S.E. at Gainesville Housing Authority
Veteran’s Community Outreach Center
Lumpkin County
Dahlonega First United Methodist (for Wellington community)
Lumpkin County Parks & Recreation Summer Camp
Rainbow House Children’s Home
Lumpkin County High School Band Camp
In addition, Georgia Food Bank Association (GFBA) is collaborating with Share Our Strength®, to launch the statewide GFBA Feeding for a Promising Future - No Kid Hungry® campaign in Georgia- part of the national No Kid Hungry®campaign by Share Our Strength and its partners to end childhood hunger in America.  The Feeding for a Promising Future – No Kid Hungry campaign was launched in November 2011 and is a partnership between Share Our Strength and the Georgia Food Bank Association, with support from Governor Nathan Deal.  The campaign aims to end childhood hunger by using proven strategies to increase the number of Georgia children who eat nutritious meals offered through Summer and Afterschool Meals Programs. 
“This partnership has allowed us to have a much larger voice in making people aware of the impact of childhood hunger,” says Michele Chivore, Georgia Food Bank Association’s Campaign Director for Childhood Hunger Programs. “Because of the efforts GMFB has already undertaken, Georgia Food Bank Association thought that Hall County would be a great place to spread information and awareness throughout the northeast Georgia area about summer feeding programs. Working with GMFB has really allowed us to amplify our voice locally.”
To kick off the state initiative, GMFB partnered with GFBA to host an event at the Hall County Boys & Girls Club- Downey Club on June 7, 2013 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event was held for the boys and girls involved in all Hall County Boys & Girls Clubs and included several activities including a balloon release. A garden will also be established on the property to be used to expand nutrition education on fruits and vegetables for those involved with the Boys & Girls Club. 
The local community has provided immense support for the summer feeding program, both financially and through in-kind donations, including a $10,000 grant from Jackson EMC Foundation, a Honda Odyssey van to be used for food deliveries to the sites donated by Milton Martin Honda and more than 5,158 pounds of food to be used in the meals from Performance Foodservice. Representatives from Gainesville City Fire Department also attended the event in support of the cause.
“GMFB has offered and continues to offer our kids not only food resources, but healthy food resources,” says Mark Mendoza, unit director of Joseph F. Walters Boys & Girls Club. “The organization has reached out and touched kids, parents and families alike.”
The Summer Lunch Bag Program Kick-off would not be possible without support from the Arby’s Foundation. Earlier this year, GFBA was awarded a grant from the Arby’s Foundation to help identify additional strategies to increase GFBA’s efforts around childhood hunger. The Hall County kick-off event is one of the strategies being implemented by GFBA.
The statewide campaign helps to address the nearly 700,000 children in Georgia living in households without adequate food. The summer months are an important time for this campaign because students who would normally qualify for free or reduced meals at school, no longer have those meal plan options when classes let out for summer break.
“Georgia Mountain Food Bank is thrilled to be a part of such an important initiative. We are fortunate to be able to have the capacity to host the GFBA Summer Feeding Kickoff event and be surrounded by such a strong sense of community,” says Blackstock. “GMFB is honored to be one of few food banks selected in the state to partner with Georgia Food Bank Association and others to kick-off the beginning of the end when it comes to childhood hunger.”
For more information about the event or how you can become involved with the GMFB, call 770-534-4111 or watch an informational video here.