It is often difficult to imagine what life is like for families and children who go to bed hungry. Even before the Welfare changes that are currently being implemented, only 35% of families who seek private assistance in getting food aid were able to get help. Many people who work with non-profit assistance programs expect the problem will only get worse. The Atlanta Community Food Bank is doing what it can to meet the current needs as well as prepare for the future.
The Food Bank was founded in 1979 by Bill Bowling while he was working with the soup kitchen in the basement of St. Luke's Episcopal Church. He realized that many companies, which waste an average of 20% of the food produced, wanted to do more, but that there needed to be a way to centralize donations.
The Atlanta Community Food Bank now serves 47 counties in metro Atlanta and North Georgia, acting as a collection and distribution hub that serves 650 agencies in the area.
The Food Bank does not distribute food to individuals. Instead, nonprofit agencies that do serve families and individuals come to the Food Bank to purchase the food that they will distribute. The agencies buy the food for between $0.07 and $0.14 per pound, depending upon what the food is and the quantity the Food Bank has.
When an agency does not have the resources to purchase food, the Food Bank helps find companies that will donate money to set up an account from which the agency may make purchases.
In addition to the nonperishable food items donated during food drives, since 1987 the Food Bank has run a program known as Atlanta's Table. Surplus perishable food is donated and delivered directly to the agencies.
During the Olympics, AmeriCorps volunteers worked collecting surplus food from hotels, Atlanta Food Bank feeds the city restaurants, caterers, and the cafeterias that served the athletes and then delivering the food to soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Almost 500,000 pounds of food was saved from the trash, making this the largest food salvage operation in history. For many people, this was the first time in their lives that they were able to taste food like stuffed lobster and beef tenderloin from the Ritz Carlton.
Volunteers travel to middle and high schools and use role-playing games to teach children about the difficulties that poor people experience trying to negotiate the maze of aid programs in order to feed their families.
The curriculum developed by the Food Bank has been distributed to food banks around the country for their own education efforts.
There are many opportunities for Tech students to volunteer at the Food Bank. Most volunteers act as box sorters to inspect, sort and pack up food donations for distribution.
"There is a sense of camaraderie that develops among people that you've never met," said volunteer Jessica Rider. "You get to be real chummy."
Other volunteers are needed as office assistants, shoppers' assistants who help the agencies that purchase food from the Food Bank, and instructors for the Hunger 101 program.
If you would like to help out, please contact the MOVE Office at 894-2002.