"We're just thankful that we can come and help in the communities where we work," Brock Toole said. "Hopefully it will be a long-term partnership."
During the meeting, the Board also heard about the program's latest developments.
A team of volunteers, which includes students from a jobs readiness class at North Oconee High School, meet weekly at Oconee County Elementary to bag weekend meals for needy schoolchildren in the county. Fresh fruit is included every week. Several times throughout the year, toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss are packaged along with the meals, which are designed by registered dietitians.
According to the Oconee Area Resource Council, the non-profit that assists the school system with the program, it costs approximately $240 to provide a student with a bag of food for 40 weeks. Many donations actually come from teachers and staff through a voluntary payroll deduction, Oconee County Schools Lead Social Worker Brian Bishop said.
The program caters to children in grades K-12 and there are currently 76 students enrolled, according to social worker LeAnne Hale. They're hoping to feed up to 85 by the end of the year.
Students who aren't hungry perform better in the classroom and improve their attendance records, Hale said. The program also strengthens relationships with parents and schools.
"Especially parents who might be very hesitant to come into school or to call the school about anything," she explained. "they feel more connected and have a better relationship with the school because the service is being provided and they're grateful."
The Oconee Food for Kids program provides a much-needed crutch for families experiencing hardships, but participants roll off the program when circumstances change.
"We're hopefully just a bridge gap for them while we're in some tough times," she said.
For more information about the Oconee Food for Kids program and how to donate and/or volunteer, contact Ann Hester with the Oconee Area Resource Council at email@example.com.