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Atmore native serving free, healthy lunches to children

Upon hearing the news that free lunches weren’t being handed out to children because of the statewide stay-at-home order, Ernie Digmon knew he had to do something.

The Atmore native at that moment made it his mission to feed 100 kids a healthy lunch just two days later.

“I knew I was coming up on my one-year anniversary of moving back to my hometown (from Mobile),” Digmon said. “I think it was a Saturday night, and I saw somewhere they had just announced they weren’t going to be feeding kids due to the stay at home stuff statewide.

“I thought that was a travesty that kids weren’t going to be fed,” he said.

Digmon then cleaned out his bank account, and bought the necessary ingredients to make lunches for 100. He received donations from Pepsi Bottling Co. of Atmore and the Pride of Atmore. The lunches included a healthy sandwich, chips, something sweet and a piece of fruit.

“Somehow I pulled it out and it worked the first time,” he said. “Then people started to reach out to me, not necessarily because of monetary help – Walmart donated chips and fruit and grain granola bars, which was great.”

Digmon said he then increased his goal from serving 100 meals to 200 meals, adding that he also received help from the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce. Digmon served 200 meals last Friday.

Digmon said a lunch includes a healthy sandwich, a piece of fruit, a sweet treat, a bag of chips, a healthy granola bar and a juice box.

Digmon said right now the effort is a labor of love, but one day he wants to form his own 501(C)3 that helps children and the elderly.

He said growing up, he knew what it was like to be on the free lunch program, which provides free meals to students.

“I grew up in this town,” Digmon said. “I’m not necessarily going to say I know what it was like growing up as a hungry child, but my family took part in the free lunch program at school.

“There was a group of us – five children – and mother (Letty) worked two jobs,” he said. “I knew how much my mother loved us. Love is free. Love is somthing we can give to each other. I knew I had love and I could give it to the community.”

Digmon said he’ll be passing out free lunches to children every Friday from 11 a.m. until he runs out at the Atmore Farmer’s Market next to city hall.

“I’m proud to be an avenue for peolpe to use,” he said. “I have the time and I have the energy. I’ve never had children, but the value of our next generation is of the utomst importance right now. I want to continue ddoing this on Fridays.”

Those who are interested in donating or helping with the effort can email Digmon at erndigmon@gmail.com or contact him at 251-404-5957.