Georgia Mountain Food Bank uses local help to give back during COVID-19 pandemic
by Alyson Shields, Access WDUN
Many people are struggling right now during the novel coronavirus pandemic, so it’s no surprise that the Georgia Mountain Food Bank is seeing a lot of hungry people. But, there are some rumblings at the food bank that need some extra nourishment, too.
For example, Director Kay Blackstock said they needed to think quickly to continue to distribute goods at Montgomery Memorial Church Saturday. Those clients have relied on that mobile food pantry for years, she said, but the church didn’t want to put their volunteers at risk.
“So through the Governor’s work to get the National Guard engaged, many of our peer food banks across the state have been making good use of the National Guard members,” said Blackstock. “We just thought this was a great opportunity for us to be able to continue to serve the families that come to that food distribution.”
Blackstock said she believed the families that visited the mobile food pantry at the church lived in the neighborhood and that the food distribution was very important to their every day life.
And, as expected, more people are needing help from the food bank and their partners as many have lost their jobs or had to reduce their income. Blackstock said they are doing their best to balance the increase in need, with the decrease in demand.
“Georgia Mountain Food Bank is very reliant on our great retail partners. Somewhere around 65 to 75 percent of the food that we bring in each month comes from our great partners at Publix, Kroger, Sam’s and Walmart, and many others,” said Blackstock. “But I don’t have to tell anybody what it looks like in the grocery store and the shelves are cleaned out. So that’s had a huge impact on the amount of food that we’ve had to distribute.”
Blackstock said that’s why the Georgia Mountain Food Bank hasn’t been out on large scale distributions. “We have 74 feeding groups in five counties that are counting on us to take care of them, meaning they’re counting on us to provide food to them.”
Blackstock said in addition to using caution to ensure their front lines feeding needs are met, she said they’re also finding ways to get no-touch, socially-distant help from the community.
But, Blackstock said they have another idea, especially for those who want to help the food bank without leaving home.
“You have the opportunity to make a financial gift, the opportunity to do a food or funds drive, a virtual food drive,” said Blackstock. “You can even order from Amazon from our most-needed items list and have it sent directly to us.”
Blackstock said there are also activities on the website alongside those no-touch donation options. Activities range from at home ideas for kids to group activities for the whole family. Find out more about those options here: www.georgiamountainfoodbank.org
Lastly, Blackstock said they consider their team a team of essential workers, and it was important for them to help the influx of those who need them now – Blackstock said it was about three times the amount in March just at the food bank alone than normal.
“Thankfully, we’ve had some very brave and courageous food pantry feeding group partners just stay open, stay in service to the public, and that’s been a a huge help to us because if they had all shut down we would have really struggled to make it,” said Blackstock. “So far we’re not able to do at the capacity that have done in the past, but we are able to maintain so no one is is being turned away who does seek food assistance.”
Blackstock said they know that those who have fallen on hard times will likely need to the Georgia Mountain Food Bank for months to come, so they are strategically planning to continue as a food resource.