Last Monday, SB 345, which is known as the “Save Our Sandwiches Bill,” passed the House with a vote of 150 – 12. Ike Reighard, the CEO of MUST Ministries, said this is not the first time this bill has been discussed.
“Last year, the health department, just about three weeks before we were going to launch our summer lunch program, we got basically a cease-and-desist when it came to making homemade sandwiches,” Reighard said. “I know that does not sound like a big deal until you begin to look at the multipliers because we were feeding approximately 7,000 children a day, and that means you've got to replace 7,000 sandwiches.”
They quickly shifted to pre-packaged sandwiches, Reighard said, which cost about $0.89 each.
“When you're talking nearly 300,000 of those sack lunches across the 10 weeks of the summer, 5 days a week, that was about a $270,000 to $275,000 hit,” he said. “We're fortunate to have former Governor Roy Barnes on our board at MUST, and so he started drafting some legislation to be presented, and we were very fortunate that Senator Kay Kirkpatrick and then State Representative Bert Reeves, they both took it on to make it an effort to be able to get it through the legislature.”
As the bill was being discussed, Reighard said he actually testified in front of different health subcommittees.
“We loved it at MUST because they called it the save our sandwiches, and that was our rally cry, and people really did rally last year,” he said. “It was incredible because we received so much funding that we were able to fund that big of a hit to our budget.”
Reighard said 2019 was a tough year, but it helped prepare the MUST team for all the changes they’ve encountered this year due to COVID-19.
“You can't prepare the sandwiches in a home, but you can now prepare them in different kitchens and businesses, things of that nature,” he said. “And we appreciate that. It's a step in the right direction because before, they were talking about having to make all these kitchens ‘certified kitchens'."
He added that a lot of churches don't want to go through that kind of effort given how much is involved in the process.
"Ironically, the majority of what we've been able to do was everything that we were already doing. It was included in this legislation which was all the health precautions," Reighard said. "We were already doing those, and we amplify them to all of our volunteers. So we were already doing those things. So that's not a big change."
He said the biggest change is not being able to set children around the kitchen table and make sandwiches - letting them know that those sandwiches will feed children the next day.
"That kind of a day is gone, being in your house. But you can still replicate it somewhat in a church kitchen, in the clubhouse of your neighborhood, at your business if you have a kitchen there," he added. "All of those without having to be certified now.”
The bill is now headed to Governor Kemp’s desk, and Reighard said he’s hopeful for a happy ending.
“The big thing is, it does not just benefit MUST, because the feeding programs around to the city are legendary,” he said. “They are wonderful and incredible. They are going to benefit as well by not having too stringent rules that are placed on them, so they end up losing their volunteers and end up losing kitchens that have could have been available. I think we found a good middle ground.”
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