The meals on the bus go ‘round and ‘round

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In Forsyth County, a school bus serves as more than a mode of transportation. For many children, a school bus in the summer is a sign of a cool place of refuge and a meal.

The University of North Georgia Summer Food Service Program (UNG SFSP), led by Dr. Pamela Elfenbein, serves children meals in an air conditioned school bus. Some children sit in the seats and eat their meal, while others sit on a blanket in the back and have a picnic.

The children come from all over the community to board the bus.

“I see the kids on their bikes come flying downhill, dropping them on the grass and run towards our bus. Its a pretty remarkable thing to see,” said Dr. Elfenbein.

Some parents drop their children off at the bus, while others walk their children to the bus. A little boy named Leo, wearing a Batman cape, ran down to the bus with the Batman logo flapping in the wind. “I love the food. It’s fun on the bus,” he said.

Families who are in need of a nutritious meal board the bus too. Maria, a mother of two, boarded the bus with her children and mother. “It’s all good,” she said referencing the meals.

UNG SFSP received the Georgia Food Bank 2015 Arby’s County Challenge Grant to provide meals to more than just children.

“While only the children qualify for reimbursable meals, having the Georgia Food Bank 2015 Arby’s County Challenge Grant gives us the flexibility to be able to offer a meal that we know we will not get reimbursed for,” said Dr. Elfenbein.

Expanding the range of who SFSP can provide meals to is a part of its plan to make an authentic impact.

UNG SFSP wants make an impact by “creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and caring among partners, program staff, volunteers, children we serve, and the communities within which they live,” said Dr. Elfenbein.

The program allows for the University of North Georgia to build a relationship with the Forsyth community and bring together resources plus collaborations around the northern Georgia area.

UNGSFSP has partnered with Georgia Mountain Food Bank (GMFB). GFMB serves as the vendor and helps prepare and deliver about 1,400 meals a day. The partnership also allows for a bag of nutritious food, such as produce and staple items, to be sent home with each child.

A meal will help fight hunger for a few hours, but a bag of fresh produce and various staple items will fight hunger for a least a day.

Cumming First United Methodist Church has become another partner of UNG SFSP. The church provides volunteers, additional resources like laundry items and baby food along with programs for the community.

Any requests for information regarding developing feeding sites, creating partnerships and collaborations, or growing programs, please email Dr. Elfenbein at pamela.elfenbein@ung.edu.

To find local summer meal sites:

  1. Text “Food GA” to 877-877
  2. Call the SFSP line at 855-550-SFSP
  3. Dial 211

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