Who is the face of hunger? Many of us have grown up believing its the image of someone in a third-world country fighting famine. Few of us want to believe that in one of the richest countries on earth, the face of hunger is often a child.
In Georgia, more than 1.5 million people do not have a regular supply of food and 21% of our children live in these households. Only half of these food insecure households qualify for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) food benefits from the federal government.
The Effects of Hunger
People who are struggling to pay for food often choose inexpensive, low-quality foods. These low-quality diets combined with the chronic stress of obtaining the next meal often have a harmful effect on their health including increased rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. They often are forced to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine, utilities, or transportation.
Young children in food insecure households have lower birth weights, are more likely to be hospitalized, and are at a higher risk of chronic health conditions like anemia and asthma. School age children who are hungry are more likely to repeat a grade in elementary school, have developmental issues with language and motor skills, and have more social and behavioral problems including hyperactivity, aggression, and anxiety. In Georgia, over 60% of children in public school qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch in school but only 15% of these children have access to these meals during the summertime.
How We’re Helping
SVdP Georgia is filling the void for working families struggling to make ends meet. Our Food Recovery and Distribution program provides much of the food for our 40 food pantries distributed throughout Georgia. In addition, volunteer caseworkers in our 75 conferences and staff at our 4 family support centers distribute food gift cards, food pantry vouchers, and financial aid for food.
Food Recovery & Distribution Program
Each month, SVdP Georgia salvages 38 tons of food collected from over 45 Kroger, ALDI, and Sam’s Club stores, as well as food drives and private donations in our Food Recovery and Distribution Program. These food items include canned goods and pantry staples as well as frozen meat, produce, and baked goods. SVdP collects them in our refrigerated trucks, sorts and repackages them at our Chamblee facility, and then distributes them to our network of over 40 food pantries throughout Georgia. Plans are underway to further reduce landfill waste by composting foods deemed unfit for consumption.
SVdP Georgia operates 40 food pantries, 1 of which is a client-choice pantry. The Client choice pantry operates much like a grocery store where people in need can choose their own food. It helps to enhance their personal dignity and reduces waste due to unwanted food items. It also helps them to be proactive in addressing any underlying health issues. This is our model of choice for food pantries in the future.
To respond to escalating demand, SVdP Georgia is increasing the size and functionality of its Chamblee Family Support Center food pantry and its Food Recovery & Distribution warehouse, with an emphasis on increasing the amount of fresh produce and other healthy alternatives provided to clients by 65 percent. In the expanded food pantry area, an initiative of the Hope Transformed Capital Campaign, new refrigeration units will be installed with front and rear access for easier shopping and stocking. The storage areas will be updated to enhance efficiencies, and at the rear of the building, SVdP Georgia will maintain two loading bays for food deliveries.
Gift Cards & Vouchers
Our volunteer caseworkers distribute food gift cards, food pantry vouchers, and financial aid for food as part of the Home Visit process and through our Family Support Centers.
Emergency Food Boxes
Often, our Conferences and Family Support Centers encounter people in need of food on an emergency basis. Daily, we provide snack bags to the homeless and food boxes filled with enough groceries to prepare meals for a week to individuals and families.
Holiday Food Boxes
Each year, SVdP Georgia gathers food boxes for the winter holidays. Each box contains a frozen turkey or ham plus all the fixings for a nourishing meal on the holiday and beyond.
For households that rely on school breakfast and lunch programs to help feed children, the holidays can mean lean times. But the holiday food box, with its supplemental protein, helps fill the void.
In addition, the staff at the central office feeds the homeless a hot Thanksgiving meal each year.
Weekend & Summer Meals
Every Friday during the school year, the Sharing Our Blessings ministry at St. Ann’s delivers food bags to a local elementary school where almost 91% of the students are on a reduced or free lunch program. Their families can’t provide food for the children on the weekends without school lunch, so students are each given a bag as they get on the bus to go home.
This is just one way our Conferences address this childhood hunger issue. Many of our Conferences partner with local agencies over the summer to provide meals to children who depend on school food programs.
Upon the completion of our Hope Transformed Capital Campaign, the Chamblee Family Support Center will feature a new Teaching Kitchen with semi-commercial, energy-efficient appliances. It will serve as a classroom space for educational programs on topics such as healthy eating, simple recipes, and feeding a family on a budget.
*to be completed in 2020