The organization, which supplies food to more than 600 partner nonprofit agencies in 29 metro Atlanta counties, provides help to 39 groups in Cobb, said Bill Bolling, executive director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank. From its 200,000-square-foot warehouse in Atlanta, it distributed 2.8 million pounds of food to Cobb alone between June 2011 and June 2012.
And so far this fiscal year, the demand has only increased. Since June, another 2 million pounds have been distributed.
“I think it reflects the need and the increased demand,” Bolling said. “I think that hit particularly hard are the suburban areas that hadn’t been hit hard until now.”
Woody Holyfield, who is in charge of missions and ministries at Milford Baptist Church off Austell Road, said the Atlanta Community Food Bank allows his food pantry to take the $400 it spends each week on distributing food to residents much further.
“People bring us canned goods. They get a big can of soup or spaghetti sauce for $1.29,” he said. “For $1.29, I can get nine cans of tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce from the Atlanta Community Food Bank.”
Most Thursdays, the church distributes food boxes to about 150 families, who wait in line an hour before the church starts serving at 6 p.m. The boxes, which cost the church $4 each, include meat, vegetables and other items designed to feed a family for several days. Holyfield said they have a retail value of between $25 and $30.
“Our church is in a very impoverished area,” he said. “We’re able to minister to these families. It helps us reach out to the community.”
Positive American Youth of Mableton has several programs to help fight hunger in the area. It serves more than 300 families a week and has a program that gives kids “snack packs” to take home when not in school.
“It’s great, because we’re able to get large amounts of food and products to the community at little or no cost,” said Reec Swiney, spokesman for Positive American Youth.
The Atlanta Food Bank allows a “one-stop shop” for food pantries in the area, Bolling said. It has staff, including 1,000 volunteers per month, to assist food pantries. It also goes through an extensive process to screen the participating pantries.
“It gives the agency one place to shop,” he said. “You don’t have to run around to stores like Costco or Walmart. That’s definitely an advantage for an agency having one place to get food.”
Food pantries place orders online and then come to the warehouse to pick up their food.
The food bank has already grown 87 percent in three years, but Bolling said he is concerned that demand for his agency’s services could increase even more, with possible federal budget cuts meaning fewer people will have food stamps available. Although the Atlanta Community Food Bank is privately funded, a reduction in the number of people fed by the government means more need for food pantries, he said.