Georgia's Department of Public Health has ordered a charity that reportedly gave 275,000 meals last summer to children and families in need to meet new health regulations or close up shop.
What's the background?
MUST Ministries has been providing free lunches to people in the community for 24 years. Sandwiches for bag lunches are made in churches and homes, and then brought to several sites where volunteers coordinate how to get each lunch to someone in need.
In addition to the sandwiches, lunches are filled with other snacks (including crackers, pretzels, and fruit cups), juice boxes, and water donated to MUST Ministries.
What happened now?
But now, due to new health department guidelines, MUST Ministries will only be able to pass out sandwiches made in certified kitchens. This means that instead of having volunteers make the sandwiches in homes or churches, the sandwiches will have to be purchased from a catering company or restaurant.
On May 30, MUST Ministries wrote in a Facebook Post that "we are no longer allowed to accept homemade sandwiches for Summer Lunch." The ministry also said that "[a]fter 23 years of following our food safety rules, we have never had anyone get sick."
The new regulations meant that an increase in cost for the charity. It estimated that it would need to raise 75 cents per sandwich.
Lead volunteer Karen Davidson told WSB-TV that before the regulations "we knew how many [sandwiches] were coming every day. We always had enough. We had overages!"
MUST Ministries President and CEO Ike Reighard told WGCL-TV that everyone at the ministry had been "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 the way we have in the past." He said that they are working to figure out a way to continue to produce sandwiches on their own in the future, in line with the new regulations, in order to keep costs down.
On June 11, MUST informed supporters that it had raised enough money to purchase 180,000 sandwiches, but that it still needed an additional $75,000 to continue to operate to the end of Summer.