Gainesville, Ga. — Georgia Mountain Food Bank’s (GMFB) Annual Empty Bowl Lunch, a fundraising event that helps end hunger in Northeast Georgia, was deemed a success, raising enough money to help provide more than 527, 000 meals to those in need throughout Hall, Lumpkin, Union, Dawson and Forsyth counties.

With corporate and table sponsors, including ‘til no One is Hungry Sponsors Atlanta Falcons, AcessWDUN, The Times, LaserCraft Technologies and an anonymous donor, the crowd exceeded 600 guests.

The lunch featured a menu coordinated by Performance Foodservice-Milton’s corporate chef, Tony Schmidt. A key partner in the event, Performance Foodservice-Milton’s not only donated Chef Schmidt’s time and the time of many of its staff (including Kyle Cuttengim who was the event’s emcee), but helped procure and solicit donations for all the food from West Creek soups, to salads with all the fixings and tasty treats.

Back by popular demand, the event also featured a live auction, conducted by Doug Carter, president and broker of Don Carter Realty Company, and included hand-painted bowls by celebrities including the:

  • Eye of the Tiger Bowl, painted by Brenau President Ed Schrader
  • Who’s Your Mama Bowl, painted by local business owner and artist Frank Norton Jr.
  • Herschel Walker signed “ ‘Til No One Is Hungry” football
  • Georgia Legislators Bowl, signed by legislators in GMFB’s five-county service area, including Governor Nathan Deal and Lt. Governor Casey Cagle
  • President Jimmy Carter Bowl, signed by President Jimmy Carter, painted by GMFB’s Phil Dennis (The proceeds from this bowl were split between Georgia Mountain Food Bank and Habitat for Humanity of Hall County.)
  • University of North Georgia Bowl, painted by UNG President Bonita Jacobs
  • ’96 Olympic Commemorative Bowl, painted by Georgia State Senator Butch Miller and signed by Jim Mathis Jr., Mary Hart Wilheit and Steve Gilliam

“I was happy to participate in this unique opportunity to help support Georgia Mountain Food Bank and Habitat For Humanity Hall County, organizations that engage and empower their citizens to create innovative and constructive solutions to addressing poverty – both causes and results,” President Carter said.

The live auction alone raised enough to provide 71,000 meals to the community.

“Empty Bowl is one of our biggest events and one of the greatest opportunities to raise funds to help feed thousands,” said Kay Blackstock, executive director of Georgia Mountain Food Bank. “This year’s record-breaking event was a true community celebration.”

The Empty Bowl Lunch is scheduled annually for the month of September because it is Feeding America’s Hunger Action Month – a time when food banks across the nation encourage and challenge their communities to take action to fight hunger.

Hunger is often invisible, and yet the fact remains that one in five Georgians are hungry and do not know where their next meal will come from. Hitting even closer to home, 47,000 people in Dawson, Forsyth, Hall, Lumpkin, and Union counties face hunger each and every day.

Also at the event, GMFB premiered its new video featuring the face of hunger, educating attendees that in many cases, those facing hunger are neighbors, friends and even relatives who endure tough decisions just to make ends meet. With every dollar donated to GMFB, the organization is able to provide about five meals to feed hungry Georgians.

“Hunger is a real issue—bigger than one town or one city,” Blackstock continued.“It affects so many all around us, and seeing people come together to rally for the food bank’s cause makes me excited to see where this momentum takes us and how it will help eliminate hunger in our area. I am thrilled to have so much support and to see the issue of hunger in our community brought to light in such a significant way and during such a crucial time.”

This year also featured the selection of “The Mike Banks Reflections of the Heart” award in memory of philanthropist and friend of GMFB, Mike Banks of Gainesville. This legacy award is a part of Empty Bowl each year and is given to an individual whose contributions to GMFB truly reflect “the heart of a giver” in the same way that Mike Banks lived his life. This year’s recipient of “The Mike Banks Reflections of the Heart” award was longtime supporter of GMFB, Rich White.

“Rich has served the food bank from its very humble beginnings as founding board chair in 2008,” Blackstock said. “He was a huge part of the success of the organization as we crossed the 30 million pounds distributed milestone this year. Rich’s life mirrors the criteria of the award. His loving heart is definitely reflected in all his words and actions. His love of his family and community shows in all he does. Rich is a visionary leader that has compassionately given so generously to many great causes here in north Georgia that make a better quality of life for all.”

“Today was overwhelming to say the least,” said Rich White, retired bank executive and community volunteer, and current board chair at GMFB. “We witnessed the face of hunger, we celebrated our successes and we raised a lot of money to help our neighbors and friends living in our own back yards. It is such an honor to just be a part of this great work. It has a way of catching you and not letting you go.”

Other awards presented were the volunteer of the year, Mike Poston, and the corporate volunteer group of the year, Cargill.

As an ongoing tradition, each person who attended the Empty Bowl Lunch took home a hand-painted pottery bowl that was donated by various members of the community and local artists. The bowl serves as a reminder of the organization’s efforts to feed hungry people in our community.