BY KELSEY PODO, Gainesville Times
People wiping grocery stores clean of supplies has taken its toll on the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, who receives around 70% of its food from the retail market.
Over the past month, Kay Blackstock, executive director of the food bank, said donations have dropped by 50%.
“That is unsettling because we have 74 parner agencies in five counties that count on us to have inventory for them here for them to order,” she said. “They’re directly serving on front lines all the time.”
Instead of providing extra public distributions during the pandemic, the executive director said the Georgia Mountain Food Bank’s No.1 responsibility is meeting the supply demand of its partner agencies. She said through individual donations, volunteers, committed staff and support from the Atlanta Community Food Bank, the organization has continued to fulfill its day-to-day operations.
However, this doesn’t mean that the food bank isn’t extending help when it can.
“That’s what got me thinking about the migrant children who could be falling through the cracks,” she said.
The food bank coordinated with Anna Sargent, the director of Hall’s’ English Speakers of Other Language program, and distributed food supplies to 90 migrant families in the county. Blackstock said the meals were delivered by the school system.
The Georgia Mountain Food Bank offers a walk-in program called People in Need, which provides emergency food assistance. In March Blackstock said the organization served 343 individuals. Usually the food bank helps 50 people a month through People in Need.
“We’re a staff of 11,” Blackstock said. “It was hectic. There were lots of phone calls and people showing up for food. We just did the best we could with it.”
Since COVID-19 reached Georgia, the Georgia Mountain Food Bank has strived to keep its outreach programs like Neighborhood Fresh and The Mobile Food Pantry running safely and normally.
Once a month for the past six years, The Mobile Food Pantry has visited Montgomery Memorial Baptist Church in Gainesville, to distribute food to the community’s residents.
The food bank called upon the Georgia National Guard to assist with the food pantry.
“They showed up, jumped right in and just executed it perfectly,” Blackstock said. “We’re so grateful to have those folks as our volunteers. Their leadership has been amazing.”
As soon as the van bus rolled into the church, she said families were already lined up waiting for their food. The organization was able to serve 258 people on April 11.
For those wanting to help Georgia Mountain Food Bank during the pandemic, Blackstock recommends making a financial donation, which gives the organization leverage to buy needed food and continue operating.
The food bank is currently collecting encouraging notes for seniors, children and families who are struggling during the pandemic. Blackstock said the volunteers and staff plan to place the handwritten letters into their emergency food boxes, which will be distributed to partner agencies.
She recommends writing down a favorite Bible scripture or prayer, or writing words of encouragement with a drawing that symbolizes hope.
The notes can be mailed to Georgia Mountain Food Bank: 1642 Calvary Industrial Drive SW, Gainesville, Georgia 30507.
Blackstock asks people to sign the letters with their first names only.
For more information about how you can help the food bank, visit gamountainfoodbank.org/covid-19-response.