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Student-led Thanksgiving drive contributes to food bank
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GAINESVILLE — While many people in Hall County may be going hungry, Kay Blackstock said it is not due to a shortage of food.

"Food is thrown away and wasted and dumped every day, sadly," said Blackstock, project coordinator for the Georgia Mountain Food Bank and administrative assistant for the North Georgia Community Foundation.

Blackstock has been working for more than a year to start the Georgia Mountain Food Bank in Gainesville to help already established organizations who are working to end hunger.

"We’re putting a food bank here to help the food banks already in place," Blackstock said.

Blackstock said people often misunderstand the difference between a food bank and a food pantry.

"A food bank is a warehouse where surplus food is collected, sorted and then redistributed out to nonprofit organizations who do emergency feeding as part of their mission," she said.

These nonprofit organizations include shelters, churches, day care centers and programs for the disabled. All of which serve people directly.

The Community Food Pantry is one such organization and was the focus of a Thanksgiving food drive earlier this month by a group of West Hall High School students.

Members of the school’s Future Business Leaders of America and National Honor Society contacted Blackstock, who helped coordinate their project.

The students collected about 1,000 cans for the Community Food Pantry.

"They were very enthusiastic and very much looking forward to doing this on a regular basis when the food bank is established," Blackstock said. "When the food bank’s up and in place, we can receive barrels and barrels of gifts like that and then have it sorted and then sent back out."

The Georgia Mountain Food Bank plans to collaborate with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, one of eight America’s Second Harvest food banks in the state.

The national network of 200 food banks operating in all 50 states distributes more than two billion pounds of donated food and grocery products through the Second Harvest Network each year.

The effort will supplement, not compete with, the Atlanta Community Food Bank and the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia, which is based in Athens and has an outlet in Habersham County.

A fund has been set up for the Georgia Mountain Food Bank by the North Georgia Community Foundation, which promotes and manages charitable contributions.

Before the food bank can start operating, a location must be chosen, money raised and volunteers enlisted.

"We’ll be doing community food drives, and community volunteers are going to be critical to the success of the food bank," Blackstock said.

Food pantries and emergency feeding programs are seeing an increase in the number of working people that are forced to rely on assistance because they are hit with rising transportation costs, health care and other issues.

"They’re back against the wall where they may not have money left over to feed their families," Blackstock said.

While Blackstock said the food banks are doing a good job at getting food out to the non-profit organizations who serve people, the need continues to grow.

"And it’s not going away," she said.

Blackstock said what she hopes to do by starting the Georgia Mountain Food Bank is to have a facility that can go pick up food that would otherwise be thrown away and store it until it is needed.

A Gainesville food bank would be a win-win for the non-profits as well as the food bank industry, Blackstock said.

"It’s way for so many different people and groups and places in community to come together to put an end to hunger here," she said.