Georgia Mountain Food Bank’s largest and only fundraiser of the year, Empty Bowl Lunch, is going virtual at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Kay Blackstock, executive director of the nonprofit, said when the pandemic hit Georgia, she knew the 12th annual event would go on, she just didn’t know how.

“We held out as long as we could,” she said. “We kept waiting after Memorial Day, after the Fourth of July — we had hopes that we would be able to get together.”

When her team realized an in-person event wasn’t possible, she said they combined ideas and decided to hold the event online, which will include a live auction, recognition of volunteers and announcement of this year’s Mike Banks Reflections of the Heart recipient. Those who participate will receive a link to the program.

2020 Empty Bowl Lunch

What: Georgia Mountain Food Bank’s 12th annual fundraiser

When: 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22

Where: Online via a link sent from nonprofit

More info:

Instead of inviting people to eat together, Blackstock said the nonprofit will pack and deliver boxed lunches provided by Performance Foodservice to its sponsors, as well as hand-painted bowls and Empty Bowl Lunch T-shirts.

Those who purchase individual tickets will be able to pick up their bowls and boxed lunches from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22, at First Baptist Church of Gainesville, located at 751 Green St.

Sponsorships start at $750, and individual tickets can be bought for $30. People can purchase a sponsorship or ticket by visiting

Each year, the food bank offers guests a hand-painted bowl as a reminder of its “goal to eliminate empty bowls and empty stomachs” in North Georgia. All the proceeds from the lunch fundraiser will support the nonprofit, which serves Dawson, Forsyth, Hall, Lumpkin and Union counties.

In fiscal year 2020, Blackstock said the nonprofit distributed 5,653,682 pounds of food to those it serves collectively with Atlanta Community Food Bank.

“I think the community really understands that at the end of the day, the food bank is going to have the challenge with keeping up with the need,” Blackstock said. “So many people have lost their jobs, and some of those jobs aren’t going to come back. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and I think the community really realizes that too.”

Like years prior, the 2020 Empty Bowl Lunch will hold a live auction at the end of the program with a few “celebrity bowls,” including one painted by Gary Black, Georgia’s commissioner of agriculture. Blackstock said this year’s creation from Black will serve as a tribute to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box program and include his handprint and signature.

People can also expect to see a “health care heroes tribute platter,” which Blackstock said has the fingerprints of nurses and doctors from every Northeast Georgia Medical Center location.

Blackstock said she is looking forward to celebrating the organization’s outreach and mission with its supporters.

“I’ve grown up in Gainesville, and I’ve seen that spirit of the community’s generosity create so many wonderful things, and the food bank is just one of them,” she said. “I feel as connected to it this year as any year previous because I know the hearts of the people who make this possible.”

To confirm a sponsorship, contact or call 770-534-4111. For more information, visit