The Georgia Mountain Food Bank is asking people to “Lend a Hand, Give a Can” and donate canned food at local grocery stores during the next two weeks.
The “Lend a Hand, Give a Can” food drive began in 2012 to help the hungry in metro Atlanta and North Georgia.
Gainesville City Councilman George Wangemann said the drive was planned and conducted by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to help those in need.
“Food is probably the most basic need that all of us have — food and water,” said Wangemann, a founding board member of the Georgia Mountain Food Bank. “So this is really one of my passions, to help the community raise food for those who are less fortunate.”
The drive aims to collect more than 44,000 pounds of nonperishable, canned goods for the food bank. Wangemann said volunteers stand in front of grocery stores to remind shoppers to donate.
“Two weeks ago, we were at the brand new Kroger store in Gainesville and we collected 2,600 canned goods for the food drive,” he said. “This past weekend, Saturday, we stayed in front of Sam’s in Oakwood and Wal-Mart in Oakwood, and we collected approximately the same amount.”
Kay Blackstock, executive director of the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, said food donations over the last several years are “significantly down.”
“I think there are a number of factors, and I’m not an economist for sure, but I think this long time of need, year after year, has just depleted some of our resources,” Blackstock said. “I think that companies are having less waste, they’ve tightened up on their manufacturing processes and aren’t overproducing.”
Blackstock said not only has she seen the food supply decrease, but the number of people in need over the last several years has increased.
The Georgia Mountain Food Bank serves people in five counties: Hall, Dawson, Forsyth, Lumpkin and Union. Blackstock said it has 60 partners throughout all five counties that the food bank stocks and serves.
It jointly serves with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, and the “Lend a Hand, Give a Can” campaign benefits both food banks.
“We really try to direct resources to the areas other people aren’t reaching,” Blackstock said. “We work hard to try to get into all the areas we serve, all the way to Suches, Ga.”
Jeff Humphrey, public affairs director for the Sugar Hill stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, stressed that the drive is not a “church drive, but a community food drive.” He said it functions and thrives through the generosity of the public.
“The least we can do as members of the community is help our fellow man,” Humphrey said.
Wangemann said nine congregations are involved with the drive to restock the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, but they hope to partner with other community churches next year.
“For this particular project, denomination doesn’t really matter,” Wangemann said. “We’re all God’s children and unfortunately there are poor among us who really need our help. That’s who we’re serving.”
Those interested in donating to the drive can find their local drop-off location at giveacan.org. The drive culminates Sept. 13 with a celebratory final drive from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the food bank, 1642 Calvary Industrial Drive SW, Gainesville.