Food needs increasing in Hart

  • Photo submitted — Hartwell Rotary Club members Jerry Dawson, left, and Earl Johnson, right, help with a food giveaway by Hart Partners on May 6 at the Adult Learning Center on Benson Street in Hartwell.
    Photo submitted — Hartwell Rotary Club members Jerry Dawson, left, and Earl Johnson, right, help with a food giveaway by Hart Partners on May 6 at the Adult Learning Center on Benson Street in Hartwell.
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The number of families needing food in Hart County has gone up by an estimated 20 percent and local non-profits are ramping up their efforts to meet those needs as residents continue to cope with the economic impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic, organizers say.

Hart Partners Communities in Schools Director Patricia Werner said the group has seen an increase in the number of calls regarding families, who have children in a Hart County school, needing food and the number of people showing up to their monthly food giveaway, where 50 pounds of food is distributed to each family in need. More than 50,000 pounds of fresh, frozen and pantry stable food was distributed to Hart County school children this academic year through Hart Partners.

The school system has been providing, and in some cases delivering, meals for students since the pandemic forced all schools to close. But that will soon end as the school year draws to a close and Werner thinks her organization will see an even bigger increase in the number of families needing food.

“Because of that we have decided to continue our pantries, which normally we only do through the school year, through the summer,” Werner said. “So we will be having a food giveaway the first Wednesday of every month through the summer.”

Last Wednesday, Hart Partners, with the help of the Hartwell Rotary Club chapter, provided food to 47 families in need at one of their food giveaways. The group distributed 50 pounds of food per family, including fresh produce from the Rabun County chapter of the Northeast Georgia Food Bank, and will be distributing even more to families who couldn’t come that day. When families come to the food giveaway, the food is put into their car without any human-to-human contact, Werner said, to maintain safety for everyone.

Staffing has been a challenge with most of Hart Partners’ staff being more than 65-years-old or have existing health problems, but Werner said the Rotary Club has been a big help.

“With Rotary stepping up and putting the muscle behind this, that has been wonderful,” Werner said.

The program currently works with elementary and pre-kindergarten students, but Werner said this summer they will be working with 35 families from each different school in the county after a school counselor recommended each family who they thought needed it the most.

“I hope we can increase that this summer,” Werner said.

Due to the possibility of having no, or fewer summer camps, where many children receive two meals per day, there will probably be more need, Werner said.

The organization is always in need of more money to help feed more children, Werner said. For every dollar donated, Hart Partners can provide 10 pounds of food for a Hart County family in need.

For more information about the program, to donate or to volunteer, contact Patricia Werner at 706-436-4034  or email hartpartners@yahoo.com.