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Events soup-filled bowls raise money, awareness of hunger issue
Randi Dyer of the Georgia Mountain Food Bank places bowls made by area students on a table for guests Tuesday morning of the third annual Empty Bowl Lunch at the First Baptist Church banquet hall. Area restaurants donated food for the event, which raised money for the Georgia Mountain Food Bank.
Want to help?
To make a donation of money or food or to volunteer at the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, call Kay Blackstock or Randi Dyer at 770-967-0075.

A gray, rainy Tuesday seemed like a good day for a hot, steaming bowl of soup.

Those attending the third annual Empty Bowl Lunch on Tuesday at the First Baptist Church banquet hall were treated to more than just a bowl of soup. Those supporting the fundraiser for the Georgia Mountain Food Bank also got to take home a bowl handmade by area high school and college students.

Husband and wife David and Cindy Bryant, both First Baptist members, were among the lunchtime crowd filling their bowls from buffets offering soup, salad, pizza and desserts donated by local businesses.

“We’re here to support the food bank,” David Bryant said. “Absolutely, it is a great cause, so why not?”

Kay Blackstock, executive director of the food bank, said she was pleased even if the turnout was a little light.

“So I think the turnout’s been very good, with the weather and the way things are (financially),” Blackstock said.

Though the Empty Bowl event had been held on World Food Day in October the past two years, Blackstock said the event was moved up to September to coincide with national Hunger Action Month.

“We’ve made some pretty big impact, things happen for Hunger Action Month,” she said.

Blackstock said the event also served as an opportunity to get the word out about the relatively new food bank and its mission.

Proceeds from the Empty Bowl lunch will be used to help buy food distributed to the partner agencies within the five-county area that the food bank serves, Blackstock said.

In addition, it will fund regular snacks for 305 children two days a week at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County, a 19-week program called the “Munch Bunch” will start soon. Two days a week, the food bank will provide healthy snacks to the youth participating in after-school programs at the Boys & Girls Clubs.

“We’re going to get some ... stuff they’ve never eaten before and introduce it to them and encourage them to try it and tell them where it comes from and sort of give them exposure to things that they might not have access to,” Blackstock said.

The food bank also has another distribution of U.S. Department of Agriculture commodities planned for Oct. 17, Blackstock said.

The food, funded by the federal stimulus act, may be distributed from a location other than the food bank’s Flowery Branch site to allow people living farther away from South Hall an easier opportunity to get food.

Last weekend, USDA commodities were distributed to 526 households from 12 different counties, Blackstock said. Many more had to be turned away when the food ran out, she said.

This fall, the food bank also will be holding their first fundraising campaign and plans to hold food drives during the holiday season.

Rich White, chairman of the food bank’s board, said he has been pleased with what the food bank has accomplished in its first year of operations. The food bank already has nearly met its goal of distributing some 500,000 pounds of food, he said. White said the response from the community has been overwhelming and he always is hearing from people who want to contribute or volunteer.

Blackstock said the food bank welcomes assistance from the community, and those who want to help don’t have to worry about being able to afford a monetary donation. The food bank always needs volunteers to help with bi-monthly food distributions as well as answering phones and other tasks.

“We can find a way for them to help,” Blackstock said. “That’s the coolest thing to see unfold. ... We had (volunteers) show up Saturday (at the food distribution) that we didn’t know were coming and all of them at the end of the day were just like ‘Please, tell me when I can do this again. I want to come back. I want to do this again.’”