Georgia Mountain Food Bank gears up for Hunger Action Month with Empty Bowl on horizon
GAINESVILLE – Did you know that as recently as 2019, more than 1.3 million Georgians – including 405,308 children – faced daily struggles with hunger?
Among those people struggling to find enough to eat each day were almost 50,000 residents from Dawson, Forsyth, Hall, Lumpkin, and Union counties here in north Georgia, where the food budget shortfalls were estimated to be a total over $27 million pre-pandemic.
Those numbers only escalated during the economic hardships imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that Georgia Mountain Food Bank (GMFB) – which strives each day to provide meals for food-insecure residents of that five-county area – saw its challenge increase. In fact, GMFB saw a 40 percent drop in the donation of retail food products that they use to help feed the food insecure during the pandemic. Yet GMFB overcame the shortfall by utilizing other means and sources of donations in order to provide food to the community.
The specter of hunger is still very much alive across our nation and here in north Georgia – in fact, Feeding America estimated that more than 54 million people across our nation experienced food insecurity in 2020, including a potential 18 million children. This health crisis has been intimately tied to already existing inequalities (the poor, the undocumented, low wage workers, unemployed and under-employed).
Yet GMFB is doing its utmost to combat those chilling statistics, including providing more than 59 million pounds of food to those in need since its founding in 2008, which includes 5.27 million meals distributed through programs and partner agencies from July 2020 – May 2021 alone.
GMFB continues to need support in ensuring that no one goes hungry, however.
Community partnerships are vital to their continued success of combating hunger here every day. During the month of September, GMFB and the Feeding America network celebrate Hunger Action Month to inspire people to act and raise awareness of people facing hunger. And there are many ways to be involved in the movement.
One quick and simple way to help is to draw awareness to the fact that hunger is a very real and persistent danger in our community by taking part in “Wear Orange Day” on Sept. 17. Orange is the color of hunger, and by raising awareness of the struggles of millions across our nation and thousands more in north Georgia, you can help food banks such as GMFB achieve their goals.
Knowledge is power. GMFB understands this, and that is why its efforts in the community go beyond collecting and distributing meals. For instance, due to an investment by Cook Law Group in educational programming, GMFB was able to purchase enough copies of the children’s book “Lulu and the Hunger Monster,” by Erik Talkin to distribute to every elementary school in their service area. This book teaches about childhood hunger and allows kids to learn about food banks and how they may be able to help. Former Georgia Governor and First Lady Nathan and Sandra Deal joined the Food Bank in filming a video of Mrs. Deal reading this book so classrooms may share its message.
With so many children being greatly affected by the pandemic, and with the schools highly engaged in finding ways to provide the children they serve with food, this initiative only furthers the partnership that GMFB has with entities serving children in our community.
In addition to the donation of “Lulu and the Hunger Monster” to each elementary school’s media center, this year every school superintendent from the systems within Dawson, Forsyth, Hall, Lumpkin, Union counties and Gainesville City Schools are participating in the “Superintendents’ Challenge,” for this year’s Empty Bowl luncheon. Each superintendent submitted a painted bowl for the Empty Bowl auction as a competition to see which can draw the highest bid – all part of an effort to deepen the partnership between GMFB and the schools, children, and families it serves.
You too can take part in this year’s Empty Bowl – which is GMFB’s headline annual event and is just days away. The Empty Bowl luncheon will take place on Sept. 21 and offers a method for participants to support GMFB’s impact on addressing local hunger. Every dollar raised can provide five meals to those in need.
Empty Bowl 2021, presented by LaserCraft Technologies, will be a live broadcasted event (virtual) just like last year’s event, which raised enough support to provide over 800,000 meals to food insecure families throughout our region.
This year, GMFB has targeted a goal of Empty Bowl providing one million meals, which would be a record for the fundraiser.
The Empty Bowl event, which will include a delicious lunch delivered to participants, a live auction with local celebrity auctioneer Doug Carter and bowls submitted from national and international celebrities – including Ambassador Andrew Young, Atlanta Braves alum Brian McCann, media personality Clark Howard, comedian Jeff Foxworthy and more – will take place at noon. Lunches and hand-painted rice bowls will be delivered to each sponsor the morning of the event with a program containing the link and password to access the livestreamed program.
GMFB is less than $31,000 away from its goal of raising enough to provide one million meals from Empty Bowl. Sponsorships are still available, and your participation can help make a huge difference for feeding food insecure people throughout GMFB’s five-county region. To sign up today to sponsor or purchase an individual ticket, contact Rebecca at 770-534-4111 or visit www.gamountainfoodbank.org/emptybowl.
“There are so many ways to become involved in our efforts at GMFB,” said Kay Blackstock, GMFB executive director. “We are so grateful to the businesses, volunteers, individuals and community leaders who continue to step up in a big way in support our efforts. The generosity of this community continues to amaze me – even in the face of unprecedented challenges – time and again, it has continued to rise to the challenges set before us to take care of the wellbeing of others. This helps us all to form a thriving place in which to raise our families, one without the worry of if there will be food to eat.”
These steps are all part of GMFB’s goal of ending hunger in north Georgia. For thousands here in our communities, a daily meal isn’t a choice between different dishes. It’s a choice between food and other crucial needs — like medicine, electricity, or childcare. This September, join us for Hunger Action Month by sharing how you will end hunger.
To learn more about Hunger Action Month please visit: https://www.feedingamerica.org/take-action/hunger-action-month.