The Heard County Community Partnership, located in Franklin, Georgia, has been selected as a Sow A Seed 2021 grant recipient based on their innovative approach to address food insecurity in their community, as well as supporting the continuation and growth of their food pantry which has been expanding over the past year through the Heard County Food Pantry Project. Two new areas of innovation to address the community’s needs will be a Mobile Food and Resource Pantry and a School-Based Student Grocery Store.
In September 2020, Heard County Community Partnership assumed administrative responsibility for the Heard County Food Pantry. In addition to the transition in leadership, the food pantry was also moved to a new larger, more accessible location. The new location not only allowed for more user-friendly service to the community, but it also provided extra space that allowed for the creation of a Community Resource Center. The Resource Center allows new and expecting mothers to receive supplies for their infants through the Pregnancy Resource Center, and provides assistance to low-income elderly residents applying for energy bill assistance and weatherization home repairs from Community Action for Improvement.
The Heard County Food Pantry currently operates two weekly programs for Heard County residents. They serve residents who meet USDA income qualification requirements with weekly drive-through food distribution. Every Friday from 8:30 to noon, patrons can drive up to the food pantry, sign in, and be served an average of 35 pounds of food, with additional food given to families with children ages 17 and younger. Food includes pantry staples, fresh and frozen foods, with fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins given each week, and dairy products when available. They also prepare 100 backpack food bags to be sent home with students in Heard County schools each weekend. The food in these bags is ready to eat or easily prepared so that students in need are guaranteed at least two meals a day, plus fruit, over the weekend.
“Without the food pantry and backpack program, our county would have people in very tough spots. With the rising cost of groceries and gas, I know folks are being truly blessed by the food pantry services,” comments June Barber, social worker for Heard County Schools.
The Heard County Community Partnership understands that people who have unmet food needs often have other unmet needs as well, and it is the confluence of needs that has led to their next phase of expansion with the mobile pantry and the school-based student grocery store. These projects will address three key areas of the grand challenges of rural Georgia as identified by the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center 1) social determinants of health 2) health literacy and 3) strategic healthcare assess.