First United Methodist Church of Chatsworth - Saturday SacksMurray County (Georgia) Saturday Sacks began in the fall of 2008 when a group of educators and retired educators at the First United Methodist Church of Chatsworth gathered together to consider the needs of our schools and children. Over 70% of the children in the Murray County School system are eligible for free or reduced lunches because of their household income. For many of these children, outside of the meals they receive during the school year, hunger is a reality they have to face on a daily basis. This lack of consistent nutrition is manifested in numerous ways, from lethargy, to aggressive behavior, to hording of food at school, not to mention the academic consequences. In response to this need, Chatsworth First United Methodist Church started a program called “Murray County Saturday Sacks.”
Each Friday afternoon, elementary students (identified by their school counselor and teachers) will receive a sack of nutritious self preparable food to take home over the weekend. Each sack will include items like: crackers, applesauce, nutragrain bars, Vienna sausage, etc. Families with multiple siblings will receive Saturday Sacks for each child. If one child in the family gets a sack, every sibling receives one.
Over the course of 23 weeks (November, 2008 – May, 2009) we went from serving two elementary schools to serving 6 elementary schools, the Murray County Pre-K center, Head Start and Early Head Start and the Murray County High School child development center. Our numbers went from about 250 a week to over 1,000 per week by the end of the school year. We delivered over 14,000 sacks to the children of Murray County that first school year. In the 2009-2010 school year, as we anticipated (due to the downturn of the economy) our numbers jumped to close to 1,400 sacks each week. We delivered over 40,000 sacks in the 2009-2010 school year. (So far during the 2010-2011 year, we are delivering 1,400 per week)
On average we spend about $1.50 per sack. For the 2010-2011 school year, our budget will be over $60,000. With the church providing storage space and a local grocery store providing the sacks over 99% of the donations we receive goes to purchasing food. As you can imagine financing this program can be interesting. This money came from multiple sources including: local church budget, fundraisers, individual donations, other churches, corporate donations, civic groups, United Way & other grants, as well as Emergency Food and Shelter money from the federal government.
To make this ministry happen, more than 100 different volunteers from within our church, other churches, Dalton State College, local non-profit groups and interested individuals came together each week to sort, pack and distribute the sacks. Volunteers of all ages are always welcome. During the school year, we gather every Thursday at 5pm to “pack the sacks.”
For the 2010 – 20101 school year we are committed once again to making sure that no child in Murray County goes hungry. We are willing to work with any individual or group to make sure that these children get fed each weekend during the school year. We are constantly working on improving the quality and quantity of the food that is included in each sack and would appreciate any input from anyone.