Megan Vincenti visited the Atlanta Community Food Bank to see firsthand their work to fight hunger, especially in the summer months.
In the middle of the hot, Georgia summer I had a chance to visit Atlanta Community Food Bank. In Georgia, 1 in 4 children struggle with hunger — and we know these kids can struggle the most when school is out. The food bank is fighting summer hunger through a number of different programs that help to lessen the burden on children and families during the summer months.
These were some of the best ways I saw the food bank make a difference in families’ lives:
Georgia is known for their peaches and it happened to be toward the end of the peach season when I visited. The nutritionists at the food bank like to have samples available at their sites using food they are providing to show people unique ways they can make and eat the food. The nutritionists altered their typical salsa recipe that day to use peaches rather than tomatoes for a nutritious and fun twist. Many people they served were of a wide range of ethnic backgrounds (the school we were at typically translates their information into 8 different languages!) so I wasn’t sure how a peach salsa would go over, especially with the children. People were hesitant at first but many came back for seconds and walked away with a recipe card.
Watching the kids’ excitement to eat and play
One of the summer meal sites I visited was at a local playground. The kids played on the playground and took short breaks to eat. The children also received some food bank swag (sunglasses, backpacks and water bottles) that they loved! To those kids, the meal site was a chance to just have fun with their friends and re-fuel with a sandwich and applesauce at the same time.
Learning just how tight budgets are for struggling families
At the start of my food bank tour, I was asked to imagine that I was a single mother with three children that had a full-time minimum wage job. I received my ‘paycheck’ and was promptly asked to give back about half of it for my rent expense. As we walked throughout the food bank, I had to give more of my paycheck for a variety of expenses: utilities, childcare and healthcare to name a few. All of the dollar amounts were based off state averages. Once all of my fixed expenses were paid, I was left with very little. For a single mother with three children, it was not nearly enough for groceries alone, not to mention other necessities for children like diapers or school supplies. It really hit me that this is the very situation many working moms face daily, which is where the food bank steps in to provide a bit of assistance and make getting through the month just a little bit easier.
4. Interacting with the grateful people from all walks of life
Throughout my visit I encountered people from many different backgrounds. There were mothers and grandmothers whose small children helped to pick up and carry food to their cars (seemingly unaware that this was any different than a grocery store), high school student volunteers who also received some of the food they were providing, there was even an elderly gentleman who was having air conditioning issues (in Atlanta in July!) that walked over pushing his cart to be filled. Shortly after, the people who were working on his air conditioning also came by. This experience was a good reminder that hunger doesn’t discriminate and you can’t tell who might be in need at first glance.