The members of team at Atlanta Children’s Therapy and their families recently spent a Sunday afternoon volunteering at the wonderful organization, Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB). ACFB has been serving the community of Atlanta since 1979 and has grown from a modest operation to distributing over 60 million meals to 755,000 people in 29 different counties around metro Atlanta and north Georgia. The food bank distributes meals to food pantries, childcare centers, night shelters, and senior center. They utilize the work of more than 1,700 volunteers a month along with 150 staff members to procure, sort, package, and distribute foods from hundreds of donor sources including manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, brokers, restaurants, food drives, gardens, and individuals.
There are a great variety of ways to volunteer with ACFB from gathering food from agency partners to assisting in community gardens. Our cohort worked in the Product Rescue Center preparing, packaging, and loading boxes of food that would later be shipped out. We worked alongside another 35-40 volunteers from all over the city of Atlanta in a jovial and social atmosphere with music blaring and staff members happily dancing and encouraging folks the entire time. The bank does a great job of making sure everyone there has a job and stays busy throughout the shift. They organize the work in an assembly line fashion so that you can master your job and keep the process moving. Some folks are loading boxes full of food while others move the boxes down the line where other label and close the boxes before another group stacks the boxes onto pallets to later be loaded onto trucks to shipped out. By the end of shift and a great deal of coordinated teamwork, we learned that we had packed over 15,000 pounds of food with is equivalent to over 13,000 meals.
Half-way through our 3- hour shift we paused for a break and watched a presentation of the realities of hunger and insecurity in Atlanta and beyond. We learned that 1in 7.5 people of about 755,000 people in metro Atlanta and North Georgia utilize food pantries and meal service programs, which includes 164,000 children. 56% of client households of ACFB report monthly income of less than $1000 and 76% report choosing between paying for food and paying utilities with 43% of households making that choice every month. The reality is that hundreds of thousands of people all over Atlanta do not know where their next meal is coming, which makes every aspect of life more difficult including education, health, and mental well-being. The presentation helped put in perspective the severity and reach of the hunger and food insecurity problems that Atlanta faces. The beautiful thing about ACFB is that they have identified a pathway to begin to address these issues by partnering with community organizations to collect and distribute meals, while engaging with community members to provide the labor to make it all happen.
Here at Atlanta Children’s Therapy we feel so privileged have been embraced by the community of Atlanta for the past 20 plus years and cherish the opportunities we get to give back in small, but important ways. We look forward to taking advantage of more opportunities to volunteer as team at ACFB and other organizations around Atlanta.