THOMAS COUNTY, Ga. (WTXL) — The Thomas County School District is working to keep students fed.
One in three children is food insecure in Thomas County since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The district says with the pandemic putting a strain on families' finances and the food deserts in the area they had to step in.
"We know that this has been a very tough time for a lot of families," said Lauren DePlantis, the director of School Nutrition. "Our nutrition staff is wonderful, they love loving on our kids and this is our way to give back to them. So we’re happy to provide that for them."
To help remedy that, Thomas County Schools is handing out a week's worth of meals for students in the district.
"My little girl has a friend she goes to school with," said Katie Toole, a Thomas County parent. "And her friend would tell her that there would be times there would be no food to eat."
Toole says for some families in Thomas County missing school means missing a meal.
The delay of school start dates in the county meals given by the district is helping meet that need.
"It's too hard on these small kids, not having food in their house," said Toole.
Schools supply thousands of children two meals a day when in session.
Without them, child hunger has increased.
Second Harvest of South Georgia says it was a problem before the pandemic.
"Child food insecurity was almost one in four," said Eliza McCall, with Second Harvest of South Georgia. "After COVID the projections are one in three kids live in a Thomas County home without a stable source of food."
That's a 44 percent increase and why the district's Food and Nutrition Services took action, setting up food drives for families in their school.
"They can come out," DePlantis said. "They can get seven breakfast, seven lunches, and a gallon of milk."
The district expecting to see high numbers especially following their spring distribution.
Parents in the area say they're grateful for the district meeting a dire need in the community.
The district will continue weekly distribution for the next two weeks until school starts.
The district will hold distribution on Wednesdays and has several sites for families to pick up those meals.