The Atlanta Community Food Bank fights food insecurity in Georgia.
Words by Claire Pool
Photos provided by The Atlanta Community Food Bank
The Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB) is doing the work that needs to be done, and it’s doing it well.
The ACFB is feeding metro Atlanta and North Georgia counties because they struggle with something you may not often think about—food insecurity.
Food insecurity means not knowing when your next meal will happen or where it will come from. It also refers to the USDA’s measure of lack of access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members, and/or to limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.
When you think of food insecurity, you might think it pertains only to homeless people. But according to the ACFB, one in four children and one in six adults struggle with food insecurity, whether homeless or not.
"The ACFB works to fight hunger by engaging, educating, and empowering the community," said Kyle Waide, President and CEO. The ACFB works with over 700 partner agencies in its 29 counties. This includes soup kitchens, food pantries, community kitchens, childcare centers, and much more.
The ACFB was so successful last year that it completely outgrew its building, and in early 2020 it moved into a new facility. The older space was designed to accommodate the distribution of 40 million pounds of food each year, but in 2017, it distributed beyond that. Now in the new facility, it expects to nearly triple the volume of food it currently sources and distributes. With expanded space for volunteers, supporters, and the community, staff is looking forward to welcoming, serving, and engaging more of ACFB’s partners to innovate and solve challenges.
They have several ways for people to participate in volunteer work—roles that accommodate large groups, individuals, children, and everything in between. Project Rescue Center allows volunteers to inspect, sort, and pack quality grocery donations in a great hands-on experience. Kids In Need provides free school supplies to teachers in low-income areas, and they can come “shop” for these supplies after school. Volunteers there help teachers shop, as well as restock items as they are taken. Community Gardens is for group volunteers only, and they teach people how to supplement their food supply by growing it themselves. Lastly, the Grocery Floor is for individual volunteers, and they play an important role in interacting with the partner agencies. These volunteers restock and shop for quality ingredients to load into the trucks.
As with most businesses right now, COVID-19 has put a halt to a lot of what ACFB does. The food bank had to completely stop using volunteers, even after having recently moved facilities to be able to accommodate more people. But unlike many businesses, it has been able to flourish from this challenge as well. ACFB has grown food distribution by 40 percent, which means it has provided more than 20 million meals to struggling families since March 16. This time last year, it was distributing about a million meals a week, but since COVID-19, that has almost doubled. The Georgia National Guard has made up for the lack of usual volunteers, and the food bank saw huge growth in the food supply chain, having to change some of its processes to accommodate that. "Facing an unprecedented level of hunger since the beginning of the pandemic, our community has responded with unprecedented generosity. The support of our community is now more important than ever. Through collaboration and innovation, we can flatten the curve of hunger and feed hungry Georgians the nutritious food they desperately need,” Waide added.
Although many ACFB employees have worked there for a while, Heather joined the team only a year and a half ago. “I’m actually considered new—many people celebrated their 33rd anniversary recently!” Public Relations Coordinator Heather Moon stated. She has always loved helping and being around people, making working at the food bank even more exciting for her. “When I heard that around one in six adults is food insecure, I started walking into rooms and counting out six people and thinking, ‘One of you doesn’t know when your next meal will be.’ It was heartbreaking,” she said as she told me about the statistics ACFB had discovered.
Since COVID-19, Moon has had more opportunities to go out and help, especially on the weekends. She told me of a recent experience. “As much as I love helping people and being with people, I often don’t get to be out seeing what the food bank is doing first hand. But on Saturday recently I had the opportunity to go out, and whenever I get the chance, I will take it. It’s so humbling to be out there seeing the work we’re doing and the work our volunteers do for the sake of the community. Food banks always have this stigma of only helping homeless people, but being out there, I saw how many people from different areas we serve. Single moms, people hit by the pandemic and who are now on furlough—people from all walks need our help.”
So, how can you help? Donate, donate, donate. Whether it is to the ACFB or to your local food bank, any donation is appreciated. If you can’t donate, you can start an online food drive or do social media fundraising. Anyone and everyone can play a part.