10:42 AM

Community Impact: Food Bank of Northeast Georgia

One in six Georgians is food insecure – meaning they don’t know where they’ll find their next meal, according to the Georgia Food Bank Association.

For the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia, eliminating hunger among residents in its 14-county area means taking a community-based approach.

Using a fleet of refrigerated box trucks and tractor-trailer trucks, the food bank’s Mobile Food Pantry Program brings food options to food insecure people who are ill, needy, seniors or children. The Food Bank of Northeast Georgia coordinates its Mobile Food Pantry Program through partner agencies, such as churches and senior centers, to deliver food at their locations.

It’s those partner agencies who tell their community members that could benefit from the mobile food pantry about upcoming deliveries.

“We call hunger a silent issue. People don’t speak up publicly when they need food. Only their local groups and neighbors may know they need help,” said Mark Bailey, grant manager for the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia.

What makes the Mobile Food Pantry unique is its ability to provide a farmer’s market style option with plenty of fresh and healthy foods. Families can receive up to 50 pounds of food that includes produce, dairy and meat products. Each event at partner agencies feeds an average of 600 people and delivers an average of more than 9,000 meals.

In 2017, the Mobile Food Pantry delivered more than 4.1 million pounds of food at partner agency events.

“We’re not just fighting a meal gap, but a nutrition gap,” Bailey said.

Keeping a large supply of refrigerated food isn’t feasible for most partner agencies, he explained.

Instead, the Athens-based food bank brings fresh and nonperishable food directly to partner agencies, who often set up the farmer’s market style events in their parking lot. Partner agencies may have regularly-scheduled mobile food pantry events or plan a single event.

“The real strength of the Mobile Food Pantry is bringing hunger relief to local communities,” Bailey said.

The Jackson EMC Foundation recently gave the Food Bank of North­east Georgia a $15,000 grant to distribute food at mobile food pantry events with partner agencies in Banks, Barrow, Clarke, Franklin, Jackson, Madison and Oglethorpe counties. Since 2005, the Northeast Georgia Food Bank has received $115,000 from the Jackson EMC Foundation.

For more information about the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia’s Mobile Food Pantry program, visit foodbanknega.org.