Gainesville, Ga.— In late September, Georgia Mountain Food Bank (GMFB) challenged the 850 community members to continue to rally behind ending hunger throughout the region at the organization’s 10th anniversary Empty Bowl Luncheon. Since issuing that challenge, several individual donors, corporate sponsors and community groups have rallied to meet the Food Bank’s immediate needs in a significant way.
During the holiday season, the Food Bank’s demand for food increases drastically. GMFB’s food rescue program acquires thousands of pounds of surplus food items from corporate food partners and redistributes them throughout its network of 66 partner agencies monthly. During redistribution, the food is maintained in a 26-foot truck, which keeps the food controlled at 30-34 degrees Fahrenheit.
In August, GMFB received a grant from Publix Super Markets Charities to support the cost of the new truck, but was still seeking partners to help pay the remaining balance. A call to action at Empty Bowl coupled with a request from the board caught the attention of a single donor who generously contributed an additional $37,000. The funds allowed GMFB to pay off the remaining cost of a new delivery truck, which is critical to maintaining successful operations of the food rescue program.
“As Board Chair for the Food Bank this year, it has been my honor to serve as an ambassador of its mission.” said Brett Fowler, partner at Turner Wood & Smith Insurance and board chair at GMFB. “This gift was a testament to the power of sharing the Food Bank’s story with others. Our passion for the Food Bank’s work is contagious, and I am honored to have played in a part in continuing to cultivate our community’s culture of giving.”
GMFB was fortunate as the momentum of celebrating 10 years of Empty Bowl continued into the holiday season. In early November, an anonymous donor agreed to match gifts up to $50,000 made to the Food Bank between Giving Tuesday, November 27, and the end of the year. This campaign was a tremendous success, already reaching the $50,000 matching point and continuing to increase each day.
“Long after the gifts have been opened, the lights have been taken down and the decorations have been stored away the truth is that people are still hungry,” said Kay Blackstock, executive director of Georgia Mountain Food Bank. “We are immeasurably thankful for the board and our community partners who work tirelessly to ensure our neighbors aren’t hungry this holiday season and for donors who respond to the calls to action.”
Each year the Food Bank is encouraged to raise the bar and continue growing its outreach efforts. Since January almost 30,000 pounds of shelf stable food has been collected through community food drives and countless volunteers have dedicated more than 12,000 hours of service. But, the challenge is most noticeably demonstrated in GMFB’s annual budget. In 2018, the organization’s budget was $1,225,630.10, whereas in 2019 it will be increased to $1,490,698.49. With an increased focus on providing fresh food for those in need over the last several years, the Food Bank has required more funding to cover the increase cost associated with maintaining and delivering the produce.
Locally, Cargill has already risen to the challenge with their recent announcement to renew their “Stock The Shelves” sponsorship with another two year $50,000 commitment in addition to encouraging all employees to donate their time and expertise to benefit the Food Bank. Through the Cargill Cares program the company got involved in 2016 with their first “Stock The Shelves” sponsorship. Since that time their employees have donated more than 250 hours of service at GMFB.
“As the public has called on us to continue providing more food and enhanced programming year after year, we have relied on the community to also rise to the occasion in order to help us increase our efforts to meet this need. Each year we aim to move forward so that we may facilitate and expedite the much-needed shift towards decreased rates of food insecurity, especially for our youth and seniors,” said Blackstock. “While we are proud of the work accomplished this year, hunger will be waiting for us in 2019.”
For more information about GMFB or to make a donation, visit gamountainfoodbank.org or call 770-534-4111.