Program provides meals for children

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Kathy and Ronnie Rhodes have volunteered for the Back Pack Food for Kids program since 2013 after Kathy retired after 31 years as an educator in Clayton and Spalding counties.

They are the current directors for the program. Kathy first learned about the program when then director Joseph Walker spoke to the teachers about the program when she was at Griffin High School in 2012. Walker asked them to be the directors in 2015 and despite their daughter’s wedding being four months off, they accepted.

The program, she said, provides meals for children on the weekends “who face food insecurity.”

To participate, students must be part of the free or reduced breakfast and lunches at the school and the participating schools are based on the numbers of students at the school on free or reduced breakfast and lunches. Parents have to fill out the application, she said.

There were about 256 students in the program this past school year, across six elementary schools — Cowan Road, Atkinson, Moore, Jackson Road, Beaverbrook, and Anne Street.

She said the school let them know how many they have each week — and they try to keep it about 250, but it has gone as high as 275.

The bags that go home with the students include food for two breakfasts and two lunches and a snack for the weekend. She said the bags are distributed by the schools, usually by teachers putting them in the child’s backpack.

This only happens during the school year as they don’t have direct contact with the students. There are other programs that provide meals over the summer.

The program costs about $69,000 a year for the food, and they’d like to have the funds banked ahead of time to pay for the upcoming year so they don’t have to fund raise during the school year. The program is part of the Spalding Collaborative Authority for Children and Adults.

She said the program is in the process of finding a new location to store and sort food, after having worked at Five Loaves Two Fish Food Pantry, since starting. The food pantry is expanding and needs the space, she said, and notified them back in November.

She said volunteers meet on Wednesdays at 10 a.m. to set up the food and at 10 a.m on Thursdays to pack and deliver the food to the schools.

“We always need volunteers,” she said.

To volunteer, email krrhodes27@gmail.com for more information.

Ray Lightner, Griffin Daily News