Georgia Mountain Food Bank, 1642 Calvary Industrial Drive, S.W., Gainesville, can be reached at (770) 524-4111. For more information, visit www.gamountainfoodbank.org.
Members of the Rotary Club of Forsyth County learned Thursday about a Gainesville-based food organization that serves the area.
Kay Blackstock, executive director of the Georgia Mountains Food Bank, addressed the group during its weekly meeting.
“There are billions of pounds of food thrown away in this country every year,” she said. “There’s no reason anyone should be hungry, but you’ve got to have the means to be able to facilitate the capturing and the gleaning and the rescue of that food, and it is not an inexpensive process to do it.”
Fortunately, that is what the Georgia Mountains Food Bank is able to do thanks to much community support, she said.
“We built a 20,000-square-foot food distribution warehouse in Gainesville to serve five counties, including Forsyth,” said Blackstock, noting the others are Hall, Dawson, Lumpkin and Union.
That warehouse facility opened in August and has since received donations of two tractor-trailers, which are used to distribute food across the five-county area.
In September, Blackstock said the facility was able to “rescue” nearly 54,000 pounds of food. That number went up to nearly 100,000 pounds in October.
Rescuing food, she explained, means taking surplus items from retailers and distributors that otherwise would just be thrown away.
She said the new facility has refrigerated areas to store up to 144 pallets of cold food and 160 pallets of frozen items.
That comes in handy, she said.
“For example, we have a donor who likes to donate yogurt to us at 17 pallets at a time,” she said. “These are thousands and thousands of cases of food that we would have to turn away or divert to other communities if we didn’t have this [warehouse].”
All that rescued food is then distributed to smaller community food pantries, such as those at local churches or nonprofits.
Blackstock said the food bank has about 10 partner organizations in Forsyth. Among them are Abba House, Hightower Baptist Association, Meals by Grace, No Longer Bound and several church food pantries.
“What this does [for those organizations] is it eliminates them having to worry about having to go out and find the food,” she said. “It eliminates them worrying about where they are going to store [perishable items] and then they can focus on other parts of their mission.”
She noted that a large percentage of the food taken into the bank comes here due to Forsyth’s high population counts.
“In October, 101,000 pounds of the 202,669 pounds of food we distributed went to Forsyth,” she said.
She noted that food donations can always be made to the food bank, but financial ones can go farther.
“We’ve always said from the beginning that every dollar counts and here’s why,” she said. “If a pound of food is the equivalent of a meal, then for every dollar we can return five meals back to the community, so it is an incredible gift to our region.”