GNTC co-sponsors mobile food pantry

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Volunteers from Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) joined volunteers from the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia and Dalton Heritage Head Start to serve approximately 140 households during a mobile food pantry on Wednesday, May 27, held at Northwest Georgia College & Career Academy.

GNTC students enrolled at the Whitfield Murray Campus (WMC) as well as families with children enrolled in Dalton Heritage Head Start, received emails about Thursday’s mobile food pantry, which ran from 3 to 5 p.m. Volunteers loaded milk, meat, vegetables, diapers and wipes into the cars that circled the parking lot.

According to Jan Lanier, GNTC dean of Student Success, and Suzanne Harbin, director of Early Childhood Initiative for the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia, the event was made possible by the collaboration of several Dalton-based organizations who are working to assist GNTC students in the area.

“We have been planning this since April,” Lanier said. “The original plan was to complete the resource center on WMC, but due to COVID-19 that wasn’t possible at this time. We saw the need for a social distancing food pantry and came up with this.”

Marilyn Grandstaff (from left), GNTC Career Services coordinator; Tracy Gentry, GNTC student success coach; and Monica Swank, GNTC Administrative Services, stand ready for the next wave of cars to arrive during the mobile food pantry on Wednesday, May 27.
Marilyn Grandstaff (from left), GNTC Career Services coordinator; Tracy Gentry, GNTC student success coach; and Monica Swank, GNTC Administrative Services, stand ready for the next wave of cars to arrive during the mobile food pantry on Wednesday, May 27.

A survey sent out by the University of Georgia’s School of Public Health showed a high number of GNTC students in the community were running out of basic food items by the end of the month, said Harbin. The survey also showed that 48% of GNTC students in the Dalton area had children, so in addition to food each family also received diapers, wipes and other childcare necessities.

“With the resource center on hold, I talked to Jan (Lanier) and the people over at Dalton Heritage Head Start about how to meet the needs of these families,” Harbin said.

The Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning’s Two-Generation Innovation Grant paid for both the resource center, soon to be open at WMC, as well as the mobile pantry. Harbin, who wrote the grant, said establishing a resource center will connect students not only with food but also with organizations like Dalton Heritage Head Start who can help with childcare for young children.

GNTC students from the organization Phi Beta Lambda (PBL) were also out helping load cars with food. “They called and asked if we could help and we showed up,” said Georgina Valderrama, Secretary of Academic Affairs and PBL coordinator at GNTC.

“We are looking to do more of this,” said Melanie Hammontree of the Chattanooga Area Food Bank.

The bank will be involved in the resource center once it is up and running she said. The Chattanooga Area Food Bank supplied the food for Wednesday’s mobile pantry.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College provides quality workforce education to the citizens of Northwest Georgia. Students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree, diploma, or a certificate in business, health, industrial, or public service career paths. This past year, 12,454 people benefited from GNTC’s credit and noncredit programs. With an annual credit enrollment of 7,730 students, GNTC is the largest college in Northwest Georgia. GNTC has an additional enrollment of 4,724 people through adult education, continuing education, business and industry training, and Georgia Quick Start. GNTC is a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia and an Equal Opportunity Institution.

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