HCDA & Hamilton County Schools Partner to Improve Educational Outcomes

JASPER, FL – Today, the Hamilton County Development Authority (HCDA) announced the creation of the Weekend Grocery Backpack Program to serve up to 100 students in Hamilton County. The program, which will begin in November, aims to help feed local children who may not have access to food over the weekends.

“We know that our students represent our talent pipeline and future workforce,” said Susan Ramsey, executive director of the HCDA. “We hope that by having the HCDA sponsoring 100 weekend backpacks we are shining a light on this important issue and taking the first steps to eliminating food insecurity in our community – allowing our students to come to school ready to learn and succeed.”

Child nutrition programs play a critical role in providing quality nutritious meals to millions of children every day for free or at a reduced cost. When the weekend comes, many children are left hungry and return to school unable to concentrate. This could lead to poor school performance and a variety of behavioral problems. According to Feed America, 21.5 percent of Hamilton County’s population is considered food insecure and more than 70 percent of students are considered economically disadvantaged according to the Florida Department of Education, underscoring the need for the program.

This initiative came out of the newly formed Economic Development and Education Task Force, a partnership of the HCDA and the Hamilton County Schools. The goal of the task force is to identify challenges and opportunities to improve educational outcomes and increase the county’s economic vitality. The task force includes:

  • Susan Ramsey, Executive Director, HCDA
  • Nat Combass, Chair, HCDA
  • Rex Mitchell, Superintendent, Hamilton County Schools
  • Philip Pinello, Assistant Superintendent, Hamilton County Schools
  • Chris Combass, School Safety Director
  • Ida Daniels, Coordinator, Food and Nutrition Services Department
  • Phyllis Porter, Coordinator, Special Services
  • Betty Linton, Coordinator, Exceptional Student Education
  • Vernon Douglas, School Board Attorney, Hamilton County Schools

“It is very exciting for the Hamilton County School District to partner with the Hamilton County Development Authority to work together to meet the many diverse needs of our students.  We have been meeting as a group to discuss various programs that we can implement that would help improve the quality of education in the district.  In small Districts such as Hamilton County, resources are limited so it is imperative that we work together to pool resources and maximize results” said Superintendent of Schools Rex Mitchell.

“In our small community, partnerships are everything,” said Nat Combass, chair of the HCDA. “We have seen that when we come together as a community we can tackle any challenge. Working with our education leaders is critical to improving our community’s economy and long-term outlook.”

The efforts of the task force extend beyond the HCDA and Hamilton County Schools. The task force is hoping to engage the non-profits, faith-based community and residents for donations to the backpack program. Collection boxes are located in the Courthouse Annex, (HCDA Office) at 1153 US Hwy 41 NW, Suite 4 in Jasper.  Items to be donated include peanut butter, jelly, saltine crackers, granola bars, Jell-O cups, fruit cups in light syrup and 100 percent fruit juice boxes.

For information on how you can donate supplies for the backpack program, contact Susan Ramsey, Hamilton County Development Authority Executive Director at (386) 792-6828.