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Food Bank takes action against hunger
Federal food giveaway fills empty kitchens, boosts volunteers spirits, experience
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Flowery Branch High School freshman Elizabeth Bachmann, 14, hands a bag of eggs Saturday to Marlisa Puckett of Gainesville at the Georgia Mountain Food Bank in Flowery Branch. The food bank provided assistance to 500 households through The Emergency Food Assistance Program from the U.S. government. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

In support of Hunger Action Month, The Georgia Mountain Food Bank in Hall County distributed food to families Saturday at Hollis Transport & Logistics in Flowery Branch.

The food was provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the federal stimulus act.

The Georgia Mountain Food Bank is an affiliate of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, which collects food and grocery products for distribution to nonprofit partner agencies.

By 9:30 Saturday morning, 350 households were served.

"When I arrived at 6:30 this morning, we had folks here waiting," said Kay Blackstock, executive director of the Georgia Mountain Food Bank.

The distribution included enough food to provide one package for 500 households. Each package contained two dozen eggs, six packages of cheese, 24 cans of fruit, two whole chickens and two turkey breasts.

Blackstock’s goal for the day was to give out all the food, have volunteers feel good about making a contribution and to build awareness of the food bank and its mission.

This is the first time that a food distribution was held at Hollis Transport.

"For a first-shot thing, where we didn’t have any idea what we were doing, it has run very, very, smoothly," Blackstock said.

Although the economy is going through a downturn, the need for food is always there.

"You always have a percentage of your population who are experiencing difficulties for whatever reason," Blackstock said.

Despite the increase in job losses, there always are people who lack steady incomes and need assistance.

"It’s important to always remember that you never know how your situation may change one day, and you may be the person grateful to have this," Blackstock said.

Blackstock believes that "food is a tool."

"Because we have enough food so no one in the United States should go hungry, why not get the food to the people who need it?" she said.

Although it took some time to get organized for Saturday’s distribution, response from the community and volunteers was positive.

Brandon Quiles, a 14-year-old Flowery Branch High School student, said he "definitely" would volunteer again.

"I don’t mind the work, and if it’s going to something good, then that’s even better," Quiles said. "Besides working for yourself and making yourself feel good for what you’re doing, I like working with all of my friends and meeting new people."

Susie Sartain, 11, a Gainesville Middle School student, came with her father and sister.

"We wanted to come because we’ve never done this kind of thing before," she said. "You’re helping other people, and you feel really good about that when you’ve done."

In the past week, the food bank had to coordinate how much food it would get and when it was going to arrive. Because the facility does not yet have a large freezer or cooler, trailers were used to store refrigerated and frozen items.

Business owner Brian Hollis came by Friday and decided it would be a good idea for the distribution to use new 53-foot trailers.

"He was so excited to see the food come in and the volunteers working so well," Blackstock said. "That really made it a lot easier for us to be able to store all of the food and the supplies we needed for this morning."

Free Chapel Worship Center lent distribution traffic cones, and the Hall County Sheriff’s Office sent volunteer officers to help control traffic.

"There are so many people involved in this," Blackstock said. "You just want to put your arms around the community and say ‘thank you.’"

Saturday’s distribution also helped the food bank and its volunteers gain experience to prepare for another distribution in October.

"I had some volunteers from yesterday calling me last night with suggestions and ideas that they had for the next event," Blackstock said.

Deborah Mack, who is on The Georgia Mountain Food Bank Board, said she would encourage anyone with the time to volunteer because it "does the body good."

"It’s people you don’t normally see in these lines," Mack said. "Some of them are too proud to come out, but it’s here, take advantage of it."

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