COBB COUNTY, Ga. — A charity that has been handing out up to 7,000 free sack lunches a day for kids and families every summer has been told to stop by health officials.
Cobb-based Must Ministries has been handing out the bagged lunches every weekday during the summer across Cherokee and Cobb for the last 25 years.
But this year, the state's Department of Public Health is enforcing new rules -- and said the way Must Ministries prepares sandwiches doesn't meet its guidelines.
The health department now said the sandwiches have to come from a certified kitchen, rather than homemade by churches, businesses and families as they have been prepared in the past.
The health department is now requiring the charity to pass out pre-made, pre-packaged and approved sandwiches, which cost 74 cents to buy, ship and store. That means Must Ministries is faced with spending thousands of dollars.
Volunteers talked to Channel 2's Steve Gehlbach about how upset they were with the decision -- and how they plan to continue their mission.
Karen Davidson, the lead volunteer for Must Ministries, said the new guidelines for sandwiches is a challenge.
"(Before) we knew where they were coming from, we knew how many were coming," Davidson said. "We had enough. We had overages."
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The group has already raised more than $100,000 to get them through the first few weeks, but said they still need $75,000 to get them through the rest of the summer.
Davison said the decision by the health department presents a challenge, but they plan to make the best of it.
"You know what? The kids are going to get fed," Davidson said.
For moms like Vicki Douglas, the bagged lunches have been a lifesaver.
"When you come and bring lunch, I can do dinner, " Douglas said.
Davidson hopes the community will come out and donate to keep the vital community service going for the public.
"Please give, because you never know what need you're meeting," Davidson said. "You never know what these little kids are going through."
Must Ministries is still doing their "Save Our Sandwiches" campaign. Text "MUSTSOS to 52182 for more or click HERE.
Cox Media Group