Breaking Bread Food Pantry in Gainesville has reopened its doors but parted ways with a former chief supplier, Atlanta Community Food Bank.
“I hate that, because they were such a good partner with us ... but they’re the middleman,” said Jan Payne, who helps run the operation at A New Walk Christian Fellowship, 673 Bradford St. “We’re trying to get the food directly into the hands of the people.”
The church-based operation closed its doors in July when it decided to start charging families receiving food a weekly fee of $5 to help offset rising costs and was told by the Atlanta Food Bank that “we can’t do that or they will cut us off,” according to a letter to families at the time.
“They are a large part of our source of food. They made the final decision for us,” Payne had said.
Through the years, the pantry has had several food suppliers. The Atlanta Food Bank was the largest source, however, supplying half the pantry’s food — particularly meat and produce — at a cost of 16 cents per pound, she said.
That placed a financial burden on A New Walk, which bore the costs for the food bank, Payne said in July.
“And a lot of (church members) have lost their income and a lot of the unemployment is running out,” she said.
Rob Johnson, vice president of community services with the Atlanta Food Bank and the bank’s designated representative on the board of directors for the Georgia Mountain Food Bank based in Gainesville, defended its stance in a July interview.
He noted an Internal Revenue Service requirement that prevents major donors from getting tax deductions if those they are donating to then exchange those goods for money, property or services.
Breaking Bread restarted operations in September, but this time relying mainly on community donations.
“We don’t have as much stuff as we used to have, but (people) are still getting fed,” Payne said. “We still have a source for canned goods and we still pick up bread and pastries from some (participating) businesses.”
The organization now serves about 50 families at A New Walk on Monday mornings, down from 350 it served at one point.
“We feed the ones we can feed and the ones we can’t, we turn away, and it breaks my heart,” Payne said. “It’ll make you cry on a Monday morning.”
Payne and her husband, Dewayne, first opened Breaking Bread Food Pantry in 2006 from the church’s first location on Main Street. Dewayne is the church’s senior pastor and Jan is the associate pastor.
A New Walk later moved to the Bradford Street site, attracted by the building’s 5,000 square feet of warehouse space for a food bank.
The food pantry joined with Atlanta Food Bank in 2009 and that “just grew us immediately,”Jan Payne said.
Costs of the operation just caught up to the food pantry.
“We did it as long as we could and then we had to pull out,” she said.
Looking to the future, she said, the food bank is open to generous givers.
“We’re a 501c(3) (organization) and we’re still taking all donations,” she said. “People can still get them in before the first of the year for a tax write-off.”