Food program gets students ready for school

Kenneth Detwyler Jr.
Posted 8/8/17

MIDDLEBURG – While traveling down Main Street in Middleburg, the sounds of “Amazing Grace” can be heard for blocks each Thursday and attendees can be seen taking Communion.

That is a usual …

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Food program gets students ready for school


MIDDLEBURG – While traveling down Main Street in Middleburg, the sounds of “Amazing Grace” can be heard for blocks each Thursday and attendees can be seen taking Communion.

That is a usual scene at the historic Middleburg United Methodist Church. That’s when the church provides physical and spiritual food for families in need. However, as school begins in Clay County, the church took notice of how deep the community’s needs actually run.

It became apparent to volunteers that if families with children were struggling to buy food, they must be struggling to provide back to school preparations as well.

On Aug. 3, families gathered for their usual distribution of food, which was accompanied by school supplies for children.

Many families were gathered at the church, looking for that assistance

“We’re very much appreciative for the services, because we desperately need help right now,” said parent Margaret Hines. The Hines family was met with a medical crisis, which left her husband unable to work. Hines was referred to the church by a family friend. Accompanying her was her son Carlton Hines, 8.

“I want the first test to be on the first day, I want to see what my first grade is going to be,” he said. Carlton Hines is just one of the thousands of Clay County kids who head back to the classroom on Aug. 15, and just like any other student, he wants to be as prepared as his peers. However, his family situation made that more difficult.

His mother was concerned about how the family would eat and pay bills, let alone satisfy school supply lists.

“My husband originally didn’t want to come, but I told him that anything is better than nothing when we can’t afford it,” said Margaret Hines.

The school supplies, along with food, make it possible for families to have everything they need to start the school year off right.

“Hunger is a significant issue, food insecurity is something that effects education, working productivity, crime rates and the environment” said Luke Layow, president of Feeding Northeast Florida, which coordinated the event at MUMC’s Food Bridge program. “Because we can meet those needs, it effects those issues.”

Feeding Northeast Florida, is a subsidiary of Feeding America which works with food banks across the country, as part of a food bridge program.

“It makes me feel good, and wonderful every time I can see people getting touched and God being here for us, said volunteer James Cooper. “We know there’s a need and it’s up to us in our own personal walks to step up and do that.”

In Clay County, there are 27,220 food insecure people, meaning they don’t know where their next meal will come from. To meet the growing need, Middleburg United Methodist Church established the Food Bridge program in 2004 to distribute the high-quality food secured through Feeding Northeast Florida to those in need. More than 2,600 people were served through the Food Bridge program in 2016, including nearly 950 children.

Middleburg UMC and other food bridge locations across Northeast Florida are looking for volunteers and donations. They are also looking for more people to help, every week. For more information, go to


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