A bill sponsored by State Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick that would allow nonprofits to continue serving their communities through summer lunch programs has passed unanimously in the Senate.

“I am pretty happy about it,” said Kirkpatrick, who represents a part of Sandy Springs. “I just hope it’s not controversial in the House.”

Kay Kirkpatrick.

The legislation, SB 345, is dubbed the “Save Our Sandwiches Bill” and gives clarity about food safety standards for both nonprofits and for-profit establishments.

Kirkpatrick said she was inspired to introduce the bill because a summer lunch program by MUST Ministries, a metro Atlanta nonprofit dedicated to helping homeless and struggling individuals and families, was shut down this year due to not being in compliance with state law.

“The program got shut down during a routine health inspection,” Kirkpatrick said. “It caused a major outcry in the community.”

According to Kirkpatrick, MUST had to raise $250,000 to continue the program that feeds children on their summer breaks from school.

“They can’t sustain that going forward,” Kirkpatrick said.

Kirkpatrick said the issue with the current law is that it only allows nonprofits to have food events for a total of 120 hours each year if they do not have a certified kitchen.

The bill would allow MUST and other organizations to use an offsite kitchen to prepare food for programs and expand the 120 hours to a continuous period of up to 12 weeks between May 15 and Aug. 15, as well as four additional weeks during the calendar year.

“So this expands that time for nonprofits that have this type of program during the summer and four weeks during the year,” Kirkpatrick said.

The bill has also gained support from Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan.

“The Save Our Sandwiches Bill provides a path forward for the important work done by community organizations that provide vital assistance to fellow Georgians across the state,” Duncan said in a press release, adding that the bill “allows charitable organizations to do the work that is fundamental to our society.”

The bill passed unanimously by the Senate in a Feb. 20 session and is supported by both the Department of Public Health and the Department of Agriculture.

The bill will still need to pass through the House before it is sent to the governor for potential approval.