About Kay Blackstock
Occupation: Executive director, Georgia Mountain Food Bank
Length of time in Gainesville: 49 years
Education: GHS/Gainesville College
Most interesting job: Definitely my work at the Georgia Mountain Food Bank and the time leading up to the food bank development at the North Georgia Community Foundation
Family information: Three children: Laura, 19, Whit, 21, and Emily, 30; one granddaughter; mother
Each Monday, “5 Questions” asks someone of interest in our community to answer five questions about their job, hobby or some other aspect of their lives. If you know someone who would be a good subject for their feature, send their name and contact information to email@example.com.
Kay Blackstock has taken her job as executive director of the Georgia Mountains Food Bank and turned it into a passion to fight hunger Today, The Times asks Blackstock five questions about the food bank.
1. How did you become so passionate about the issue of hunger?
My parents were giving people with compassionate hearts and willing hands. I was very fortunate to have been born and raised here in Northeast Georgia, where the sense of community is so strong.
It definitely has been a major influence in my life.
As a single parent with three children to raise, there have certainly been many challenges in providing for my family. I definitely have first-hand experience in making hard choices to take care of myself and my loved ones.
As many reached out to help my family in times of need, I soul searched for any and every way to give back. Fortunately, I have been given that opportunity.
Every day that I am given to do this work is a joy. Our children, our seniors and our disabled are the most vulnerable among us, and we must fight to ensure the best quality of life for them possible.
Our children are our future. We must always remember that and leave politics and other social determination issues out of our responsibility to provide for them.
2. How have you been able to keep supply meeting demand in hard times?
Without doubt, keeping up with the historic level of need has been a mountain to climb and climb and climb. Collectively, as a strong food bank network, we are working together and sharing resources to keep the supply as ample as possible. This community has responded and supported our efforts in so many big ways. I have no reservations that we will only build upon what we've started here.
Georgia Mountain Food Bank is a community partnership on so many levels. We also have a strong partnership and relationship with the Atlanta Community Food Bank that has absolutely provided superior support to our food bank and the 44 partner agencies we now service in five counties here. Through our relationship with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Georgia Mountain Food Bank also has access to the Georgia Food Bank Association that works hard for all of the seven-member food banks in the state (Athens, Augusta, Columbus, Macon, Savannah, Valdosta, Atlanta) and Feeding America, nationally working for over 200-plus member food banks in the U.S.
3. What new methods of fundraising are available for such organizations?
Public and private partnerships are key. We are so grateful to have the level of community support that we have for this work. It resonates with folks. It affects so many lives and so many of us have been touched by hard times and difficult situations. Also, it's important that we are providing accountability and best practices to provide a level of comfort to potential friends and donors. Of course, creating awareness and staying connected to the public is key. We aren't really doing anything new, just staying in touch, staying close to the community and working hard to share our mission.
4. What solutions would you like to see addressed to face hunger not just locally but nationally and worldwide?
Many groups and organizations work very hard to study this problem and look for workable situations. I am constantly researching and reading the latest opinions and studies. I follow the opinion that the problem of food insecurity should be addressed by drawing on the full range of community food system resources, inviting the participation of many individuals and sectors, and promoting solutions that reduce food insecurity and build the health and well-being of the wider community.
5. Construction of a distribution center for the food bank is under way. How do you think such a facility will help advance the mission of your organization?
We are not building this new facility because we just wanted a big building to warehouse food. We are building this facility because we have to do it. We live in a giving community, rich in resources. We can solve many of our challenges by being as resourceful as we possibly can be.
The new warehouse will allow us to establish a hub for centralized collections of surplus food that might otherwise be wasted and redistribute this food in manageable quantities to hunger-fighting organizations spread throughout the rural areas we serve. The bottom line is that in the U.S., it is estimated that some 100 billion pounds of food is thrown away every year. The new Georgia Mountain Food Bank warehouse will provide the donation point and logistical solution to help ensure that food produced for consumption will not go to waste.
Not only is it the right thing to do to ensure that no one goes hungry here or lacks access to proper nutrition to thrive, it makes good business sense.
In this time of long-term economic crisis, with historic numbers of people seeking help, we must utilize all our resources in the most effective and efficient ways possible. The Georgia Mountain Food Bank warehouse will help fill in the gaps and build on the systems already in place to fight hunger here.