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State grant helps with COVID-19 food voucher program

Staff report • Jul 1, 2020 at 8:30 PM

WISE — A $185,000 state Housing and Community Development grant is boosting a program for student food vouchers in Wise County and Norton.

Wise County-based non-profit group Lunchbox276, which helps provide meals for at-risk school students, is using the COVID-19 Assistance grant to provide weekly $25 vouchers that the program’s participating 500 families can use at locally-owned small business restaurants.

The grant represents a partnership between Lunchbox276, the city of Norton, Wise County, the LENOWISCO Planning District Commission and the Wise County and Norton Chamber of Commerce.

Wise County Administrator Mike Hatfield said the program, which will provide 15 weeks of vouchers to participating families, helps both families feeding their children and with small businesses through the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is an opportunity to allow Lunchbox276, with the assistance of the county, to provide a weekly meal option for our participating families that they previously have not had,” Lunchbox276 coordinator Mary Beth Masters said. “The ability to do this while also helping local owned businesses is really a win-win for all involved.”

LENOWISCO Executive Director Duane Miller said the grant has provided vouchers for more than 400 families in the past two weeks, and that represents more than $10,000 in direct revenue to local restaurants.

“After two weeks, it is safe to say the program has been an overwhelming success and of great benefit to Lunchbox276 participants and local restaurants,” Miller added.

First District state Delegate Terry Kilgore, R- Gate City, called the program a “creative approach” in helping at-risk children and small businesses.

“This is a great example of the benefit of utilizing partnerships between civic organizations, local government, and small businesses,” Kilgore said.

For more information on the program or Lunchbox276, call (276) 337-7074 or visit online: www.lunchbox276.com.

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