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Food bank launches Stock the Shelves campaign
Georgia Mountain Food Bank to fill void with shelf-stable products
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Georgia Mountain Food Bank Executive Director Kay Blackstock and Operations Director Steve Mueller sort a few boxed items Monday afternoon as they prepare for volunteers to arrive. The food bank is launching its “Stock The Shelves” Food Drive to replenish its emptying shelves.

Stock the Shelves Campaign

What: Food drive for shelf stable items

When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday in April

Where: Georgia Mountain Food Bank, 1642 Calvary Church Road, Gainesville

More info: www.gamountainfoodbank.org or 770-534-4111

Food, to most people, is a nourishing meal, a way to celebrate with loved ones or a method of creativity.

However, one in five Georgians are food insecure. That means a person doesn’t know when his or her next meal will be or where it will come from, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.

The Georgia Mountain Food Bank has been trying to change that fact for years.

Recently though, the organization’s directors looked around the warehouse and noticed its shelves were depleted of food. So, they launched a “Stock the Shelves” campaign to ask for help from the community.

The campaign is happening throughout April, and the food bank is taking donations every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The most-needed items are canned meats (tuna and chicken), canned fruit, cereal, pasta, spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, jelly, oatmeal, canned vegetables, shelf stable milk, juice and canned meals (ravioli, soup, etc.).

And while most prepackaged food is not as healthy as fresh fruits and vegetables, the food bank prefers items to be as healthy as possible.

“We are requesting the low sugar, low sodium, whole grain donations,” Georgia Mountain Food Bank Executive Director Kay Blackstock said. “We can’t fill the shelves with potato chips.”

The organization tries to include nutritious food in the various packages which are taken to smaller food pantries. Each package is supplied with a specific number of items. For example, the food bank puts items such as macaroni and cheese, pasta, soups and canned meals in backpacks for children.

“Our backpack programs partner with local schools to give school-aged kids a supplemental backpack on Friday to take home for the weekend,” Georgia Mountain Food Bank Operations Director Steve Mueller said. “A lot of the items in that pack are those shelf-stable items.”

Without enough shelf-stable products, the groups cannot supply other food pantries with necessary items.

For food pantries, the most frequently requested packages are assorted food boxes, which contain some pasta, a sauce, a protein item such as tuna or peanut butter, a snack item, a soup or canned meal and other necessities. At this time, the food bank is in need of all of these products.

When other food pantries receive boxes from the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, they supplement the package with things such as milk, meat and other perishable foods such as produce.

“For the smaller food pantries, the assorted food boxes gives the family a little bit of everything they need,” Blackstock said.

Each box is designed to last a family of four for about a week and costs as little as 16 cents per pound, she said.

If the pantries or the food bank depended solely on wholesale products, the cost would be five to six times higher, Blackstock said.

The Georgia Mountain Food Bank receives more than half of its donations from retailers. Companies such as Perdue, Kroger, Publix and more donate approximately 85,000 pounds of salvage food.

Luckily, the food bank is large enough to accommodate enormous donations from retailers. Many other food pantries do not have room for the bulk items.

Unfortunately much of the retail donation is perishable since it includes produce, bakery items and meat. That is why the organization needs help in bolstering its shelf-stable stock.

“Of the 85,000 pounds of salvage we will get at a time, only a couple percent of it is dry or shelf stable,” Mueller said.

Although many times the salvage renders only a small amount of nonperishable food, retailers are committed to help in other ways. The food bank’s largest donation so far during the “Stock the Shelves” campaign came from Kroger.

“We got some of the proceeds from Kroger’s ‘Can Hunger’ campaign,” Blackstock said. “It came in just at the right time. We got $42,000 in gift cards to use for food purchases to get some of those staples.”

The organization can use dry products up to a year after the date on the item.

And although the “Stock the Shelves” event ends April 30, the group is always in need of donations and hosts several food drives throughout the year.

The “Legal Food Frenzy” from the legal offices throughout the state begins at the end of the month, and the schoolwide “FalCans” drive takes place in October.

“Every time we have called upon the community, they have answered in a huge way,” Blackstock said.

For more information on how to help, or if you or someone you know is food insecure, visit the Georgia Mountain Food Bank website at www.gamountainfoodbank.org or call 770-543-4111.

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