SMYRNA, Ga. (CBS46) -- For more than 20 years, volunteers for MUST Ministries have made sandwiches in their kitchens to pack into free summer lunches for children in need. Now, during the first week of this year’s program, that is changing.
“We were pretty much in shock when we found out that we were not going to be able to produce the sandwich side of the summer lunch as we have in the past,” said MUST Ministries President and CEO Ike Reighard.
Eight weeks ago, the Georgia Department of Health told learned that volunteers with MUST ministries prepare meals from their homes. The state said the groups can no longer continue the practice and must prepare meals in state-certified kitchens only.
That sent leaders scrambling to try to get lunches for the program.
“Our initial response was we purchased 90,000 sandwiches for the first three weeks of the program and then from there we are going to be seeing if we have to continue to purchase those sandwiches or if we can find some ways to produce those ourselves,” Reighard to CBS46’s Hayley Mason.
It's an expensive change. MUST serves between 6,000 to 7,000 children every day Monday through Friday in the summer. Each pre-packaged sandwich costs them $0.74 to purchase. The group had not budgeted the expense, but has raised $100,000 so far to go toward purchasing storing and delivering the sandwiches to the children.
Still, they need other food to fill the bags and make a complete meal.
“We need the snacks,” said volunteer Vicki Davis. “We need juice boxes. I think that's right now what we're the lowest on here,” she added from inside a Smyrna hosting site.
What they’ve raised so far will only get them through the first three weeks of summer. They need kitchens to prepare meals in for the remaining seven weeks.
So far, they've raised $100,000 to get through the first three weeks.
“We are going to feed these kids one way or the other,” Davis said. “Is it a hassle? Yes. Is it more expensive? Yes. But, they are God's children and they're hungry. That's the little bit I can do is to try to help feed them.”
MUST Ministries tells CBS46 they also need volunteers to help set up and distribute lunches.
They’ve launched a fundraising campaign called “MUSTSOS.” You can text MUSTSOS to 52182 to donate.
You can learn more at www.mustministries.com.