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Seventh annual Empty Bowl luncheon raises money for local food bank
Event aims to benefit "food insecure" residents
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Colorful handmade bowls were on display at Tuesday's annual Georgia Mountain Food Bank Empty Bowl luncheon. According to the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, there are nearly 47,000 people in Northeast Georgia that are food insecure, meaning they aren’t sure where they will get their next meal.

Hunger by the numbers

1 in 5 residents of Georgia are food insecure

1 in 7 Americans are food insecure

22,810 Hall County residents are food insecure

47,590 people in Hall, Forsyth, Dawson, Lumpkin and Union counties combined are food insecure

Note: Food insecurity means not knowing where the next meal is going to come from


Georgia Mountain Food Bank FY 2014 revenues

Contributions: $650,437

Program services and other revenues: $318,952

In-kind contributions of food and services: $3,650,276

Total: $4,619,665

The GMFB Harvesters Club has donated $370,543 among 98 members, providing more than $1.85 million meals.

The GMFB helped provide more than 3.1 million meals to those in need in 2014.

The parable of feeding the 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish is one of a few lessons of Christ told in all four Gospels from the New Testament.

But the real miracle was not that Jesus made such small portions satiate the appetite of crowds following him on foot.

Instead, it was his convincing all those people to share what little they had.

“We’re all called to feed the 5,000,” Bill Bolling, founder of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, said on Tuesday at the seventh annual Empty Bowl fundraiser for the Georgia Mountain Food Bank held at First Baptist Church of Gainesville. “We all hunger emotionally.”

One in 5 Georgians are “food insecure,” according to the Georgia Food Bank Association, one of the highest totals of any state. And nearly 23,000 Hall County residents are unsure where they will find their next meal.  

The GMFB partners with 59 agencies to serve meals to more than 47,000 food insecure individuals across five North Georgia counties — Hall, Forsyth, Dawson, Lumpkin and Union.

GMFB provided more than 3.1 million meals in 2014, an increase of 400,000 over the previous year.

But about 17,500 people each month in the GMFB service area have unmet food needs, and they sometimes have to make tough choices between eating a meal and paying the bills.  

A single dollar donation, however, can help cover about five meals for those in need.

And that was the message to hundreds of attendees at the Empty Bowl luncheon, where a minimum $25 donation to the food bank covered 125 meals.

The event, held every September to coincide with national Hunger Action Month, is designed to raise funds and awareness of the need to fill bowls.

Each attendee took home a hand-painted bowl donated by local artists and community members.

There was also a live auction for bowls painted by celebrities, including former Governor and U.S. Sen. Zell Miller and his wife Shirley Miller, multiple Atlanta Falcons players, former University of Georgia football players, state Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, University of Georgia President Jere Morehead, Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson and Gainesville First United Methodist Church senior pastor Terry Walton.

The auction alone raised enough money to provide about 70,000 meals.

It’s “the community serving the community,” state Sen. Butch Miller said.

Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of the Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center, said the Senior Life Center in Gainesville averages 65 clients per day. But that number grows to more than 100 every Thursday when food is distributed at the center.

“It’s huge,” Moss said of the area’s food needs, particularly for the elderly.  

GMFB Executive Director Kay Blackstock said the face of hunger has no stereotype. It’s the single mother, the college student, the elderly.

For example, every student in the Gainesville city schools can receive one breakfast and one lunch meal each school day at no cost.

And Hall County reports that 59 percent of its students received free or reduced meals in the last school year.

The Empty Bowl luncheon benefited from the sacrifice of many volunteer groups, including the Sunshine Seniors, a group of women colorfully dressed in yellow prints.

The group of local women has been promoting healthy living across Hall County for about 15 years. They now support the food bank when they distribute every Tuesday at St. John Baptist Church in Gainesville.

Jessica Butler, executive director of the Gateway Domestic Violence Shelter in Gainesville, was seen ladling food into bowls for attendees.

The shelter has partnered with the GMFB for the last few years, and Butler said that relationship helps provide food for clients, reducing costs and meeting needs.

“I am overwhelmed” by the support, Blackstock said, adding that it’s “a reminder that we’re all in this together.”

And that’s a sentiment shared by Tim Evans, vice president of economic development at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, who attended the event Tuesday.

“This is a very giving community, and it is encouraging to see organizations like the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, businesses and individuals give their time and money to address community needs with local resources,” said Tim Evans, “Local organizations have an important role in providing local accountability and transparency for donor resources investments. It is much easier to see the benefit of charitable investments that stay here in the community.”


Hunger by the numbers

1 in 5 residents of Georgia are food insecure

1 in 7 Americans are food insecure

22,810 Hall County residents are food insecure

47,590 people in Hall, Forsyth, Dawson, Lumpkin and Union counties combined are food insecure

Note: Food insecurity means not knowing where the next meal is going to come from

 

Georgia Mountain Food Bank FY 2014 revenues

Contributions: $650,437

Program services and other revenues: $318,952

In-kind contributions of food and services: $3,650,276

Total: $4,619,665

The GMFB Harvesters Club has donated $370,543 among 98 members, providing more than $1.85 million meals.

The GMFB helped provide more than 3.1 million meals to those in need in 2014.


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