Scarlett Rigsby knows that missing a meal brings more than an empty stomach. It can alter a person’s disposition, moving him from agreeable to agitated in a heartbeat.
“I get in a bad mood when I’m hungry,” says Rigsby, executive director of Nothing But the Truth, a faith-based non-profit agency in Dacula that strives to meet a variety of community needs, including feeding hungry children.
The Jackson EMC Foundation teamed up with Nothing But the Truth this year by providing funds to purchase food for their Weekend Food Bag Ministry. The program supplies food on weekends to Gwinnett County public schoolchildren identified by school counselors as food insecure.
Rigsby founded Nothing But the Truth seven years ago after returning from a mission trip to the Appalachia area in eastern Kentucky. There she encountered the poorest of the poor, hungry and wanting. Outside of the school day, children had little to eat, especially on weekends.
Back at home, she recognized similar need.
“No way are the needs as severe as in Appalachia, but any time you have a child hungry, there’s a problem,” says Rigsby. “Kids being hungry—that’s a great need.”
In October 2010, Nothing But the Truth served one school by providing weekend food bags for 15 students. Now the ministry serves 34 elementary and middle schools in Gwinnett and Barrow counties by providing food for 700 students each week.
School counselors refer students to the program, according to Rigsby.
“Our school systems are the heartbeat of our community; the counselors know what’s going on,” she says, noting that many children live with their families in extended stay hotels. With a lack of consistency in their lives, a weekend food bag can be a mighty thing—strong enough to stop the ripple effect of hunger that can lead to behavior issues and bad grades, according to Rigsby.
“We know the food is going where it’s needed,” she says, noting that raising awareness is another goal of her organization. “Some people still can’t fathom there are hungry children in Gwinnett County. We live in an affluent county, but there are great needs.”
About 100 volunteers, known as ministry partners, help with Nothing But the Truth programs. During the school year, partners visit Truth’s Place, the home of Nothing But the Truth and its varied programs, to pack food bags with kid-friendly items like pop tarts, granola bars and other non-perishables. After filling bags with enough snack and meal items to carry kids through the weekend, the partners pack bags into their personal vehicles and deliver them to schools where counselors distribute the food bags to students.
Food is purchased with grant monies, like that from the Jackson EMC Foundation, and through a partnership with the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Individuals, churches and civic groups often donate food for the program.
As an offshoot of the Weekend Food Bag Ministry, about 100 people meet at Truth’s Place every Thursday night to enjoy a meal together and then break off into Life Conversation Groups to talk about needs and concerns. Nearby, Truth’s Community Clinic supplies healthcare for those less fortunate and Truth’s Homes provides transitional housing for the homeless.
“We believe Jesus would feed the children,” says Rigsby. “Everything we do has been an outgrowth of the food ministry.”