Georgia Mountain Food Bank officials formally broke ground on its new building expansion Friday at the organization’s existing property off Calvary Drive in Gainesville.
“The need [for food security] has grown in our community and now we have to grow with it,” Interim Executive Director Rebecca Thurman said at the ground breaking ceremony Friday.
The food bank’s expansion would allow the non-profit an additional 10,000 square feet of warehouse space; an overhang compacting area; cold dock storage; doubled freezer space; additional cooler space; doubled administrative office space; and 53 new parking spaces, Thurman said.
“We are adding another truck to our fleet this year and we’re also adding a mobile market distribution program,” Thurman said. “We will have a truck and trailer that goes into communities where people can just walk through [the trailer] and get what [foods] they need, so it fills the food deserts.”
A food desert is when a community has a limited number of grocery stores for pantry staples and fresh foods, and if those stores were to close, people would be faced with the risk of not having access to food, according to Feeding America.
“Right now, we do about six-million pounds of food a year. Our goal by 2027 is to get out six-million meals a year, which is 7.2 million pounds of food,” Thurman said.
The initial expansion budget was projected to cost $2.9 million; however, the rise of inflation affected the budget and will now cost the non-profit $4.3 million. The food bank has raised 74 percent of total funds needed, much of which was met through a partial Community Development Block Grant, according to Hall County officials.
“We as the county submitted the [CDBG] grant,” Assistant County Administrator Casey Ramsey said. “It was several million dollars that we were able to pass through to the Georgia Mountain Food Bank. In return, the food bank must also be able to raise a significant portion around 25 percent.”
Longtime Hall County resident and GMFB Board Member Jennifer Herring briefly spoke at the ceremony Friday. She encouraged the several-dozen-people crowd to help the organization meet their goal, and in return communities will meet greater food security.
“Knowing that there are children in our school systems that the only hot meals they are able to get are in our school systems' lunch rooms every day...this project matters,” Herring said.
The organization must raise an additional $1.2 million to reach its overall budgetary goal. The construction also must be completed by Dec. 31 under a stipulation of the grant, officials said.
For more information and details on how to donate, visit Georgia Mountain Food Bank online.