"Hunger isn't the silent epidemic that it was," said Kay Blackstock, director of Georgia Mountain Food Bank.
"It's on the front page of every newspaper. In every news story, you hear that these are historic times we're living in."
Almost 400 people showed their support in the effort to end hunger at the Georgia Mountain Food Bank fifth annual Empty Bowl Lunch Thursday at the First Baptist Church in Gainesville.
With more than 1.8 million people considered poor, Georgia has the third-highest poverty rate among all of the states.
"There is no doubt that hunger is a real issue for so many in our community. This is a great way for the community to show support for those who are struggling with food insecurity," said Jackie Wallace, president of United Way Hall County.
The Empty Bowl Lunch is the only official fundraising event for the Georgia Mountain Food Banks. For the price of a ticket, guests were served a simple meal, donated by McDonald's and 2 Dog restaurants, and received a hand painted bowl to take home as a reminder that there are empty bowls in the community.
First lady of Georgia Sandra Deal donated a bowl she painted and spoke at the event. She said some children are only able to eat the days they are in school and go without over the weekend.
"We need to try to do what we can to help alleviate that. Those of us who are a little overfed sometimes need to make an effort to help those that are underfed," Deal said.
She said with the economy the way it is, people who are able need to try to help as much as they can.
"The state just can't do it all. We just don't have the taxes coming in, and so it's up to the churches and community organizations," Deal said.
The event has grown since last year. More than 450 bowls painted by local artists were donated this year.
Bill Haney, a professor at Brenau University, has attended the Empty Bowl Lunch for the last four years and was impressed with this year's turnout.
"I get the sense that the community is really catching on to this particular fundraising event," Haney said.
Blackstock explained that food is a tool for the body. Without it, the body just simply doesn't function the way it should. Children can't thrive without proper nutrition.
"We're going to do our best to make sure nobody is hungry in Northeast Georgia and then we'll take it from there."