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Summer Meals Help Students Eat Healthy in Burke County, Georgia

A woman unloads food from a bus
Photo: Donna Martin, Burke County Public Schools

Burke County Public Schools in Waynesboro, Georgia, is committed to stopping the “summer slide” –that is, the slip into unhealthy eating habits that often happens during the summer months. Nutrition program director Donna Martin’s philosophy is to “not just get fed, but get healthy food.”  

In Burke County, more than 25% of families are food insecure. So Donna and her team know how important it is to ensure kids get fed even when they’re not at school. That means providing boxes full of healthy foods to every family in the county, including a week’s worth of meals, delivered by bus to locations close to families, for free. 

Every box includes ingredients, straight from local farms, to make healthy meals for an entire family–like stuffed bell peppers and scalloped potatoes. Families receive detailed recipe cards and access to online videos that teach them how to make each meal. Many families encounter ingredients, such as jicama, pomegranates and brussels sprouts, for the first time. They learn how to store and prepare each one as part of a nutritious meal for the entire family.

School meals in box
Photo: Donna Martin, Burke County Public Schools

Burke County Public Schools rely on close partnerships with bus companies to transport the boxes and volunteer students to pack them but continue to face challenges–like finding enough refrigeration space for a weeks’ worth of groceries and getting enough hands to prepare and deliver them. The USDA Summer Meals Program, Donna says, has been key: “I could not begin to do this if I didn’t have USDA funding.”

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