VALDOSTA – Thanks to a state grant, Second Harvest of South Georgia can get more food to children in the local community.
The Georgia Nutrition Assistance Program, a newly implemented food program, is funded via a grant from the Georgia General Assembly and the Department of Human Services.
It affords state food banks the opportunity to provide food to eligible families who have children, said Eliza McCall, Second Harvest chief marketing officer.
The grant is being used locally to create Child Nutrition Packs, which are pantry boxes. They include macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, peanut butter, canned chicken, ravioli and other items.
“Normally, we would put this food out exclusively through our partner agencies, but because of COVID, so many of them have had to change their hours drastically or some of them have closed their doors for obvious reasons,” she said, “so we needed to find another way to get this nutrition in the hands of families to make sure these kids get it.”
Second Harvest decided to distribute the food boxes during its monthly grocery distributions in Thomasville, Tifton and Valdosta.
“It was born out of necessity because we needed to get the food to the kids and this seems the best way to do it for now,” McCall said. “ … Our goal is to get this food to as many kids as possible.”
Though the pandemic has been difficult, she said food insecurity among children has always been a significant issue.
The ratio for children living in a home with no stable food source is one in four, McCall said.
“When you complicate that with children being home because they’re virtual learning or children being home because they are quarantined for various reasons, it’s essential that we get these boxes to these families to make sure that kids are getting the nutrition they need,” she said.
The first GNAP giveaway is 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 19, at Thomasville Central County High School, 4686 US-84, in Thomasville.
Then, the agency will distribute the nutrition packs at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, at Valdosta High School, 4590 Inner Perimeter Road, in Valdosta.
Eligible families are those receiving or transitioning off of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or EBT benefits, qualifying for PeachCare for Kids, receiving free or reduced school lunches or living in public housing or Section 8 housing.
Criteria also includes families with children living in their home who are 17 years old or younger, residents who make $8 per hour or less, families who receive benefits through the Emergency Food Assistance Program, residents who get Medicaid, as well as Women, Infant and Children’s benefits.
Proof of eligibility must be shown at the distributions such as a PeachCare for Kids card, an EBT food stamp card or a student identification card for a local school system.
Forms must be completed at the distribution.
McCall said food items available in each box will vary depending on inventory so no two boxes may look the same.
They’ll be donated on a first-come, first-serve basis, one per eligible household, not per child, at two households per car maximum, according to organizers.
The agency asks no one arrive at the food distributions prior to 4:30 a.m. Food is available as supplies last.
Call (888) 453-4143 for more information.