MACON — When it comes to hunger, no zip code is exempt. Food insecurity occurs when households experience periods where their diets are reduced in quality, variety or desirability, or they have disrupted eating patterns or reduced food intake. It can happen to anyone.
“Food insecurity is complex. It’s seasonal for some folks. It’s temporary for many, but it is absolutely a critical need that has to be met,” said Georgia Food Bank Association (GFBA) Executive Director Danah Craft.
For more than a decade, Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) has contributed to the cause, donating more than $200,000 in that time to help GFBA feed hungry Georgians.
GFB presented the GFBA a check for $25,600 during the 81st Annual Georgia Farm Bureau Convention, held Dec. 2-4 on Jekyll Island. Funds for the $25,600 donation were raised through Farm Bureau’s Harvest for All campaign, which collected donations from county Farm Bureaus and the organization’s state office, as well as the GFB Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee’s “Calf’s Weight in Change” drive held earlier this year.
“It’s heart-breaking that so many people face real challenges to get the most basic needs of life,” said GFB President Gerald Long. “There are too many Georgians who aren’t sure how or when they will get their next meal, so we are committed to support the Georgia Food Bank Association and its programs through our Harvest for All program.”
Over the past three years, an average of 13 percent of Georgia households have experienced food insecurity. According to Craft, a third of Georgia’s food insecure residents do not qualify for other nutrition assistance programs, and they often turn to the GFBA and its partners to meet their nutrition needs.
Food banks on average can provide four meals for every dollar they receive, Craft said, meaning GFB’s 2018 donation will provide approximately 100,000 meals.
The USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), in its report, “Household Food Insecurity in the United States in 2017,” documented food insecurity in 11.8 percent of households nationwide in 2017. Food insecurity has been linked to a variety of chronic health issues. The 13 percent of Georgia households that experienced food insecurity over the three-year period from 2015 to 2017 exceeds the national average. The full report is available here.
Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap interactive tool, which tracks county-level hunger statistics, showed that 44 of Georgia’s 159 counties had food insecurity in more than 20 percent of their households. In Clay, Dougherty, Hancock, Macon, Randolph and Terrell counties, more than 25 percent of households experienced food insecurity in 2016, the most recent year for which statistics are cited in the Map the Meal Gap report. Clay County had the highest household food insecurity rate in the state, at 28.4 percent.
The Map the Meal Gap report indicated 1,561,360 food insecure people in Georgia in 2016, or 15.1 percent of the state’s total population, including more than 523,000 children. Nationally, the report estimated more than 40 million food insecure people, including more than 12 million children.
In addition to helping with purchases of high-protein foods like chicken and peanut butter, donated money helps the GFBA offset costs associated with collecting and distributing food donations.
“Generally, those funds get split up equally among the eight food banks,” Craft said. “A lot of times they’ll use that money to buy things that aren’t donated that are critically important for nutrition for the families they serve, like protein. We are grateful for Georgia Farm Bureau and the generous hearts of Georgia’s farmer and rancher communities.”
The GFBA started its Farm to Foodbank program in 2014, through which it accepts food donations directly from farmers, who give nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables that grocery chains won’t buy for aesthetic reasons. In the past year, Georgia’s farmers donated more than 14 million pounds of food, providing millions of meals, which the GFBA attributes to its affiliation with Georgia Farm Bureau.
Georgia Farm Bureau’s Harvest for All donation will have a statewide impact. The Georgia Food Bank Association distributes the funds to America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia in Savannah, the Atlanta Community Food Bank, the Chattanooga Area Food Bank (Food Bank of Northwest Georgia), Feeding the Valley in Columbus, the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia in Athens, Golden Harvest in Augusta, the Middle Georgia Community Food Bank in Macon and Second Harvest of South Georgia in Valdosta.
Past GFB Harvest for All campaigns have solicited direct donations of food. Since 2004, GFB has coordinated 13 Harvest for All campaigns through which GFB members across the state donated about 49,000 pounds of staple food items in addition to the cash donations distributed to the food banks located throughout Georgia affiliated with Feeding America.
About the Georgia Food Bank Association
Created in 1985, the Georgia Food Bank Association (GFBA) is a membership association composed of seven regional food banks in Georgia that collectively distribute more than 130 million pounds of food annually to over 2,000 partner nonprofits with food assistance programs throughout the state. The GFBA food banks share food, resources and best practices to help close the meal gap and ensure a hunger-free Georgia. The GFBA was created in a statewide effort to support the food security of low-income and needy individuals, families and households, through their efforts and in support of their member food banks. Its role is to maximize the impact of member food banks. The food banks are members of Feeding America, the national network of more than 200 food banks.
About Georgia Farm Bureau
Founded in 1937, the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest general farm organization with 158 county chapters. As a membership-driven, nongovernmental organization, GFB serves as the voice of Georgia farmers and rural Georgia by advocating for them on legislative issues and promoting Georgia commodities. Its volunteer members also actively participate in activities that promote agriculture awareness.
GFB membership is open to the public and offers a wide variety of benefits, including insurance and discounts for health services, travel and family entertainment. Enrollment in any of the member benefits is optional and not a requirement for membership. If you would like more information about agriculture please visit www.gfb.org, like Georgia Farm Bureau on Facebook @GeorgiaFarmBureau or follow on Twitter @GaFarmBureau.