Two Leading Non-Profits Align to Tackle Food Insecurity

As the pandemic drags on and racial tensions continue to flair, it's easy to feel isolated and helpless these days. We sit alone at our desks watching the world on our screens, and all eyes are on Atlanta as we take center stage in the Black Lives Matter Movement. We are frustrated, angry, scared and confused. Many of us are asking how we keep coming back to this place, while others are keenly aware that we've never left. We are living through history and it's on everyone to step up, speak out and do the right thing. Racism is not new, and doesn't happen in a vacuum. There are a plethora of contributing factors for why we remain mired in inequity. Consider food insecurity. Lack of access to nutritious food leads to a myriad of preventable diseases including obesity, hypertension and diabetes. In the best of times, food insecurity can feel insurmountable. During the time of COVID-19, with so many people stripped of their incomes, hunger is becoming rampant. This summer nearly one in four Georgia children won’t know where their next meal will come from. That's scary enough. Then consider that Black people are two times more likely to experience food insecurity than white people. Here's where systemic racism makes a bad situation worse. According to the most recent numbers from Feeding America, the 10 counties with the highest rates of food insecurity are at least 60 percent Black. The Black population makes up roughly 13 percent of the U.S. total population, but accounts for over 25 percent of SNAP users. Only eight percent of Black people live in areas with supermarket access, as opposed to 31 percent of white Americans. Two of our city's hunger relief organizations - the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Second Helpings Atlanta - had already set out to tackle the increase in food insecurity brought on by COVID-19. Patterned on similar programs around the country, they forged an alliance to create the Atlanta Community Kitchen Project, our region's first-ever public/private partnership to fire up under-utilized or shuttered commercial kitchens with a goal of providing 500,000 meals to Atlanta families in need this summer and putting Georgians back to work. Yet while the initiative was born out of the explosive needs brought on by COVID, the more we understand the inequity in food insecurity, the clearer it seems that both the pandemic and food insecurity disproportionately impact Black people.

It's hard to imagine one organization making a real impact on its own. With this joint initiative, teamwork makes the dream work, because two powerful non-profits working together is better than one, and with the robust support of Atlanta's business community, it's a win/win proposition. The Atlanta Community Kitchen Project leverages underutilized commercial kitchen capacity at businesses, including Chick-Fil-A, The Home Depot, the Atlanta Falcons and Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena, to produce individually packaged and family style meals for food insecure children and adults across the metro area. The project sets out to feed the hungry and put out-of-work food service staff at commercial kitchens impacted by the crisis back to work. Second Helpings Atlanta taps into its long-standing relationships with the hunger relief agencies it serves to identify needs and meet them with meals. Through its fleet of volunteer and temporary paid drivers, Second Helpings Atlanta is the conduit between food donors and the hungry, traditionally delivering fresh, nutritious surplus food, and now prepared meals. Through its deep roots in the community, the Food Bank helps expand Second Helpings' reach in the metro area.

The Atlanta Rotary Club was the first to step up, committing $100,000 to get the project started, and then, through major donations and matching gifts, an additional $300,000. Do you have a corporate kitchen that can produce meals for Second Helpings Atlanta to deliver to the hungry across metro Atlanta? The Atlanta Community Kitchen Project continues to welcome new partners who are able to provide at least 1,000 meals per day for two or more consecutive weeks via in-kind contribution to help offset the cost of food and labor.

Food insecurity very well may get worse before it gets better. No one person can tackle this alone. We are better together. CLICK HERE to help.

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