Partnership provides meals, develops skills

UNG’s Summer Food Program allows students to use the skills they have gained to address hunger.
Statistics show that 11,000 children in Hall County alone do not know where their next meal will come from. So, UNG has partnered with several agencies to provide thousands of meals to those children and others across multiple counties.

UNG’s Summer Food Program includes partnerships with Georgia Mountain Food Bank, Legacy Link-Area Agency on Aging, Forsyth County Schools Nutrition Program, the United Way of Hall County, Department of Early Care & Learning, Georgia Department of Education, and meal service host sites throughout the region.

A celebration of the partnerships’ success in Hall County was held in June at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier.

“Participation in the UNG Summer Food Program challenges our students to grow and become leaders of the future,” said Dr. Pamela Elfenbein, professor of human services and sociology at UNG. “In a very real way, they learn to work with community partners in a collaborative manner to meet the expressed needs of the community. It brings their classroom learning to life and allows them to use the skills they have gained to make a difference in the world, and they get to see the results of their work very quickly.”

Since 2012, Elfenbein has guided the university’s participation in meal service programs as an opportunity to provide students in UNG’s Human Services Delivery and Administration (HSDA) program access to career-related experience outside of the classroom.

UNG’S HSDA program – the only nationally accredited bachelor’s-level human services program in Georgia – prepares students with the knowledge and skills necessary to serve individuals, families, groups, and communities, and to support human services functions.

UNG, in partnership with the state Summer Food Service Program and local organizations, ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. The program is housed in 19 sites in four counties and served 40,000-45,000 meals this summer.

“When you’re talking about hunger in Hall County, you’re talking about childhood hunger,” said Jon West, vice president of programs for the Atlanta Community Food Bank. “It’s a serious issue. It’s an issue that has an answer. Part of the answer is happening here where communities that care are utilizing resources from state and federal partners to build their capacity to respond at a scale that actually makes a difference in kids’ lives.”