Gainesville, Ga.— Georgia Mountain Food Bank’s (GMFB) 10th Anniversary Empty Bowl Lunch, the organization’s cornerstone of annual fundraising efforts, saw another record-breaking year. The event raised enough money to help provide more than 673,000 meals to those struggling with hunger throughout Hall, Lumpkin, Union, Dawson and Forsyth counties.


This year’s luncheon celebrated the impact GMFB has had on North Georgia in the last 10 years. Over a decade ago, Jim Mathis, president emeritus North Georgia Community Foundation, and Kay Blackstock, GMFB’s executive director, identified hunger as a serious issue plaguing the region and began to explore options for a food bank distribution center.


“One of the fondest memories of my time at the North Georgia Community Foundation was our efforts in helping with those struggling to make ends meet in our community,” said Mathis.  “When we saw an opportunity to partner with the Atlanta Community Food Bank we took it.  And the rest is history.”


Since then, through a network for 74 partner agencies, more than 50,000 volunteers and over 20,000 donors, GMFB has been able to provide more than 33 million meals to those in need. Most recently, the Food Bank’s commitment to serving low-income patients with diabetes, heart failure and cancer led to the launch of the Prescriptive Food Box program. In as little as two years, the program has resulted in lowered A1C levels, BMI and weight-loss for its participants. Through community partnerships with Good News Clinic, Longstreet Clinic and Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic the effort will continue as an ongoing program of the Food Bank.


HOMESTAR was the presenting sponsor of the Empty Bowl luncheon for the second year in a row.


“HOMESTAR is honored to support GMFB for the second year in a row as Empty Bowl’s presenting sponsor. HOMESTAR would not be where it is today without the support of our local community. Therefore, it is important for us to be active and present within an organization that makes a huge difference in Hall County and the surrounding areas,” said HOMESTAR’s President and CEO, Wes Hunt. “We are thrilled that GMFB is celebrating the event’s 10th anniversary and are honored to congratulate them on this amazing level of success. Through this event, they have been able to provide hundreds of thousands of meals over the years to eliminate empty bowls and empty stomachs in our community, and we are proud to join them in this mission.”


Empty Bowl 2018 also had six ‘Til no One is Hungry Sponsors including the Atlanta Falcons, AcessWDUN, LaserCraft Technologies, two anonymous donors and The Gainesville Times. Doug Carter of Don Carter Realty Co. was this year’s auctioneer. Kyle Cottengin, with Performance Foodservice, was this year’s emcee.


The lunch featured a menu coordinated by Performance Foodservice-Milton’s corporate chef, Tony Schmidt. A key partner in the event, Performance Foodservice-Milton’s not only donated Chef Schmidt’s time and the time of many of its staff, but helped procure and solicit donations for all the food (including items from Campbell Soup and Core Group) as well.


The event also featured a live auction that included uniquely designed hand-painted bowls from the following:

  • “Georgia Grown” Georgia Agriculture Commission, Gary Black
  • PGA Greenbrier Classic
  • Frank Norton, Jr.
  • Abit Massey
  • Josh Turner
  • Charlie Daniels
  • UGA Head Football Coach Kirby Smart
  • “WILKES” Jason Scott from Season 14 of The Voice
  • Ron Gant, Former Braves Player & Fox 5 Anchor


“Georgia Mountain Food Bank is proud to celebrate the accomplishments of the last 10 years as we reflect the community-wide effort that has gone into serving food insecure families in North Georgia,” said Blackstock. “We thank the community for being a part of this great mission and appreciate their continued support as we move into the next decade of fighting hunger.”


This year also featured the selection of “The Mike Banks Reflections of the Heart” award in memory of philanthropist and friend of GMFB, Mike Banks of Gainesville. This legacy award is a part of Empty Bowl each year and is given to an individual whose contributions to GMFB truly reflect “the heart of a giver” in the same way that Mike Banks lived his life. This year’s recipient of “The Mike Banks Reflections of the Heart” award was Richard Riley.


Riley has passionately served and advocated for the Food Bank for more than six years. In addition to providing board leadership and serving on various committees, Riley has been a boots on the ground volunteer with a servant’s heart.


Other awards presented were to the corporate volunteer of the year Whelchel, Dunlap, Jarrard and Walker and volunteer of the year Jan Ritter.


The Empty Bowl Lunch is scheduled annually for the month of September because it is Feeding America’s Hunger Action Month – a time when food banks across the nation encourage and challenge their communities to act to fight hunger.


As an ongoing tradition, each person who attended the Empty Bowl Lunch took home a hand-painted pottery bowl that was donated by various members of the community and local artists. The bowl serves as a reminder of the organization’s efforts to fill the thousands of empty bowls in in our community. For more information about GMFB, visit or call 770-534-4111.






About Georgia Mountain Food Bank

Georgia Mountain Food Bank (GMFB), an affiliate of the Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB), collects surplus food and grocery products for distribution to nonprofit partner agencies serving the hungry in the Georgia Mountain region. Located in Gainesville, GMFB collaborates with ACFB to provide food to nonprofits with hunger relief programs in Dawson, Forsyth, Hall, Lumpkin and Union counties. These programs provide direct assistance to families and individuals who are in need of food assistance. For more information about the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, visit