ALBANY -- If it weren't for government assistance, many of Georgia's children would have to skip school lunches. Government food programs go a long way to assist in learning and prevent malnutrition. Then comes summer when school is out.
"Nearly 60 percent of children enrolled in Georgia's public schools are eligible for free or reduced lunch," said Danah Craft, executive director of the Georgia Food Bank Association, "but only 15 percent of them participate in summer meal programs. That means that children who depend on access to lunch during the school year often go hungry in the summer."
According to Craft, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers free summer meals to kids across Georgia similar to school lunch and breakfast programs, except the meals are free to all kids ages 18 and younger who come to a summer meals site registered through the USDA. In addition to nutritious food, many of the sites offer learning and recreational activities so kids can stay active and spend time with friends. Parents can bring their children to receive the meals without the necessity of an application.
To locate a summer lunch site, GFBA sources say to text the word "FoodGA" to 877-877, then enter your address when prompted. the system will send information on the three closest locations. As an alternative, call 221, the United Way helpline, for information and site locations.
According to GFBA sources, the texting system is part of the Georgia Food Bank Association's "Feeding for a Promising Future -- No Kid Hungry campaign in Georgia." Through the program, enrolled nonprofits, churches and schools can receive reimbursement for the meals served.
While the Food Bank of Southwest Georgia in Albany is not a participant in the GFBA Summer Meals Texting Campaign, it does provide free meals all year long through its "Kid's Cafe" program at area Boys and Girls Clubs.
The Albany Recreation and Parks Department maintains a list of agencies, churches and other organizations offering free USDA means during the summer. For information call Christopher Campbell, program coordinator, at (229) 430-5222.