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Unmasking The Faces of Hunger with Dave Newman of Operation Lunchbox

written by Michael Brown

Dave Newman, is the CEO & founder of operation lunchbox; an organization whose purpose is to feed kids in multiple counties in Georgia. He started as a youth growing up in the trailer parks of Riverdale, GA.. His dad worked at Golden Flake and many nights, he ate stale chips for dinner. His mom went to jail for 2 years suffering from drug addiction while trying to provide for the family. the trauma of growing up being hungry, no food in the fridge, nothing in the pantry gave him the vision of #KidsGottaEat

Operation Lunchbox started January 22nd 2015 as a non-profit called Devastation Relief after a family friend that died in the tornado ripped through Barnesville GA. Dave recalls helping clean up at a school and a young girl said to him: “Mr. Kids that don't eat are devastated too.” Dave talked to the principal and was informed that 36 kids needed groceries. The next day their organization brought back groceries for 36 kids. At the time, the organization was called Newman in Christ Ministries,  one year later changing the name to Operation Lunchbox. Although not in church per se, ministry was still the mission that's where Operation Lunchbox was born.

After moving from a trailer park in Riverdale, Clayton Co to Henry Co. in 2003, Dave reminisced on the holes in the floors and the duck tape on the walls to keep the air from getting cold. “Poverty was bad then and it's worse now”, says Newman and the poverty numbers have skyrocketed since COVID. Some may think South ATL is the suburbs of Atlanta; not having as much crime, low poverty rates, but those are stereotypes. Our organization noticed the hidden issues. “Kids won't tell you they're hungry for fear they'll get picked on & bullied.” Families have nice houses but are often just shells masking hunger. Parents move to these areas in hopes of better schools but with lack of resources and quality career jobs, find themselves in a cycle of debt trying to maintain.

In 2023, Operation Lunchbox hosted a gala called “unmask the hunger”. The purpose was to show we have a hunger issue in our community and how it's so covered up. People may not believe there's a hunger issue in Henry County because of the appearance of nice houses, cars, location etc. “Hunger isn't shown” says Dave. People aren't showing it, Dave recalls being overweight & hungry as a kid, so I never looked hungry. No one knows unless you're told. Operation Lunchbox’s first 3 years were self-funded and started from Dave and his family using their own money & credit cards because the organization didn't know where to get support. After those three years, the community was pretty welcoming until COVID. Now people are scared to give because of fear for their own finances. Overall, the community is great, we have 50-70 volunteers a week and more community sponsors. Community sponsors can connect by going to & donate tax deductible non-perishable items, or volunteer. Dave remembers being hungry from a personal story, and seeing hunger through partnerships in the community. This hunger crisis is being felt mostly in schools and hearing from kids themselves & counselors in private.

Serving at a local middle school, a little girl mentioned how she & her mom were living out of a car and she had to wash her underwear out in a sink everyday which almost brought Dave to tears. The next day, Operation Lunchbox donated over $300 worth of underwear and at the time, only had 3 board members with little funding.“We had a family living in a storage unit that we provided groceries for, the parents lost their jobs, kids had to take a shower using a water hose. We see things like this daily serving south metro Atlanta. The plan for expansion is to touch all 159 counties and feed all of GA. We want to partner with other organizations and business partners together in this effort.

“I find it strange being a man doing this because they expect women to be doing this, however It's not a race, it's not political, it's hunger.” says Newman. Americans get fooled by the media's portrayal of other countries suffering. It looks nothing like that here. It looks like a chunky kid, your neighbor's kid. 

We feed kids on every spectrum but we mainly feed those under the poverty line by government standards. Operation Lunchbox looks forward in 2024 to partner with more organizations. Today they provide for 670k kids over 9 years and the goal is to shut hunger down in GA. There's no real solution aside from teaching the parents to live within their means. If you're interested in knowing the legitimacy of Operation Lunchbox organization you can come to our warehouse, volunteer and come see it. Pack nights are on Thursday’s @ 6pm and delivery days are on Fridays. Operation Lunchbox is partnered with Churches in the community and are always seeking more partners for donations.

Get Your Copy of Game Changers Magazine 2024 Voices of The Village Special Edition featuring Dr. Elna Poulard of Family Support Circle


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