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Sunday May 24th, 2015 9:25PM

Food bank sees 'dramatic' increase in donations

By Staff
GAINESVILLE - Georgia Mountain Food Bank's (GMFB) Mobile Food Pantry program began in June 2012 as a means to help partner agencies increase their outreach capacity and provide additional food to the communities they serve, but the program has grown by leaps and bounds recently.

"The timing could not have been more perfect for us," said Kay Blackstock, executive director of GMFB.  "Just after our Mobile Food Pantry program launched, we moved into our new 20,000 square-foot distribution and logistics center. The Boomershine Family Logistics Center serves as GMFB s home base; and wow, what a ride it has been since then!"

Since the opening of the new GMFB logistics center, the amount of food collected and contributed has risen dramatically. In fact, the quantity of food has outpaced the amount of food it is possible to distribute through the GMFB s partner agency network alone.

"We talk about our food supplies in terms of pounds," said Blackstock.  "To give you an example, in March 2012, we collected just under 2,000 pounds of food, but in March 2013, that number rose to more than 99,000. In addition, we have seen an increase in the variety of food items we can accept including fresh produce, meat and dairy, all items that are vitally important to a well-balanced nutritional meal, but also whose shelf life is extremely limited. Our goal is to get all the food that comes through our doors into the hands of those in our five-county service area who need it the most, not for it to just sit on our shelves."

Throughout GMFB' s five-county service area of Dawson, Hall, Forsyth, Lumpkin and Union counties, there are more than 50,000 people who are food insecure, according to Blackstock. GMFB identified a gap that its partner agencies could not meet alone. To help get additional food in the hands of the communities they serve GMFB began testing the impact of the Mobile Food Pantry.

Since the mobile food pantry's inception, GMFB has partnered with community groups and partner agency members to conduct 44 mobile food pantry distributions across the four counties, distributing 148,441 pounds of food to more than 5,200 families in northeast Georgia. According to Feeding America Standards, that is equivalent to over 123,000 meals.

"Georgia Mountain Food Bank and the Mobile Food Pantry have been a blessing to Union County. We re in the process of setting up a food distribution site and they've been bringing up food once a month, and we distribute that to those in need in our community," said Howard Wells, administrator of First Baptist Church of Blairsville, a partner agency of GMFB. "Last month we were able to help 283 families and over 1,100 people. It's been a blessing to the whole community."

GMFB plans to host nine additional Mobile Food Pantries by the end of this year.

"We are just proud to be able to reach out and help our agencies serve the hungry in northeast Georgia," said Blackstock.

For more information about how you can become involved with GMFB, or the next Mobile Pantry food distribution call 770-534-4111 or visit www.gamountainfoodbank.org.



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