By Joel Hall
Through the work of the Clayton County Community Services Authority (CSA) and the City of Lovejoy, 1,634 needy Clayton families were able to stretch their food budgets this week.
On Wednesday, both entities distributed thousands of bags of canned and dry goods through the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).
Organized through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service, TEFAP provides staple goods three times a year to families living below the poverty line. The CSA in Forest Park and the Lovejoy Community Center in Lovejoy were selected as sites for this year's July distribution.
Jamminese Miller, CSA community support coordinator, said the organization has overseen TEFAP food distribution in Clayton, Henry and Fayette counties for more than 15 years. She said July is a particularly difficult time for families with meager food budgets.
"We find that in the summertime, because school is out, that is when families need more food," Miller said. "It [the food distribution] stretches the food source. A lot of people don't qualify for services and this is a godsend for them. It always surprises me how many people come out for this food and who needs it."
More than 50 people lined up at 7:45 a.m., outside the CSA in Forest Park, in order to receive the food. Sheriff's Deputies, students in the Clayton County Sheriff's Explorers Program, volunteers, and county inmates packed the cars of local residents with bags containing cereal, fruit juices, tomato sauce, peanut butter, beans, canned vegetables, rice, and other essentials.
Miller said this year is the first year in the food giveaway's history that the Lovejoy Community Center has served as a satellite distribution location. She said that 150 bags of food were sent from CSA's Forest Park location to Lovejoy to be distributed to residents in the panhandle.
"We're just absolutely excited that they [the City of Lovejoy] opened up their doors and offered a site to us," Miller said. She said the collaboration is helping bring the food "to the area's neediest residents."
Bobby Cartwright, Lovejoy mayor pro tempore, and a city council member for nine years, participated in Wednesday's distribution at the Lovejoy Community Center. He said the city serving as a TEFAP site has brought greater visibility to the city's relatively-new community center, which provides other services to indigent residents, such as computer access, a library, and a free fax machine.
"This program is really bringing the community together," Cartwright said on Wednesday "Today, we're trying to reach 150 families and we believe we'll meet that. People are coming here for the food, but we have computer services here, we're working on a Head Start program ... we're reaching a broad spectrum of people"
Linda Harris, a Hampton resident, said she is glad the scope of the food distribution program is growing. "It's a good thing to have here for people who don't have transportation," she said. "It really helps the seniors, because everybody doesn't get food stamps. You can add that into what you have to make it stretch out for you."
The next TEFAP food distribution will be in September. For more information, call the CSA at (404) 363-0575.