Putting Hunger Out of Business
By Mary Jane Crouch
What does hunger in coastal Georgia look like? It’s a mother of three, juggling multiple jobs to afford daycare and feed her children; an elderly man living on social security and attempting to pay for the expensive, life-saving medicines he needs to survive; a child struggling to concentrate in class after eating a candy bar for breakfast.
Considered one of the most prosperous nations in the world, the United States has an abundance of food resources. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that Americans throw away 29 percent of all food that is grown, manufactured and processed in the U.S. This might imply that we have enough to waste, yet according to the Georgia Food Bank Association, 18.7 percent of Georgians are food insecure, which means they aren’t guaranteed their next meal.
Over 700,000 children in Georgia live in food insecure households, and consequently, one in four children in Georgia does not have access to food.
Georgians are not ignoring this paradoxical issue, especially here in the greater Savannah area. Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia is initiating creative ways to feed hungry people while strengthening local communities. Established in 1981 in Savannah and now serving 21 counties, Second Harvest distributes over thirteen million pounds of food to 151,000 people through 275 non-profit partners. By utilizing the food bank to distribute resources, our partners save more than $9 million annually, which enables them to strengthen their programs and help more people in need.
These initiatives provide support for all ages, from our community’s very youngest to some of the area’s most seasoned citizens.
Kids Cafe, now a nationwide program, started in Savannah almost 30 years ago as a response to two young boys searching for food in a local housing project. Today, Chatham County has 45 Kids Cafes that serve over 3,200 hot evening meals to children during the school year. The cafe also provides children with tutoring and structured learning games during after school hours. And the program continues to expand. During the summer months, more than 6,000 meals are served daily at over 50 locations.
Second Harvest also has an outreach program geared toward the elderly, a group that is often overlooked in discussions of those at-risk for hunger. Brown Bag for the Elderly provides emergency food assistance to low-income seniors. Each month, volunteers pack 1,500 bags of food, which are delivered to seniors who struggle to make ends meet and must often decide between food and medication. Brown Bag for the Elderly provided 18,000 bags of food to at-risk seniors in 2016 alone.
The Partner Distribution program provides food to homeless shelters, congregate feeding programs, pantry programs and backpack programs for children. In 2016, the food bank provided more than 13.2 million pounds of food through these nonprofit organizations.
Even with these programs, some communities are still not reached. In an effort to provide food to these under-served areas, a Mobile Food Pantry distributes fresh food directly to low-income areas in rural communities with the assistance of volunteers.
The numbers speak for themselves. At a bird’s eye view, Second Harvest distributes over 9.6 million meals annually, providing nourishing options through Kids Cafes, brown bags to low-income seniors, a food pantry on wheels, and hundreds of caring partners. However, none of this could be accomplished without support from our sponsors, allies, and volunteers.
Despite our success at feeding more and more families each year, we hope to grow our programs to serve those outside of our reach. Second Harvest will continue to provide that next meal to someone in need. Our goal: putting hunger out of business.
Mary Jane Crouch is the executive director of Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia. Established in 1981 in Savannah Georgia, Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia is a locally inspired, volunteer-driven non-profit food bank and community partnering organization. Second Harvest serves as the food safety net for tens of thousands of children, senior citizens, low-income families, and people with disabilities who are at-risk for hunger throughout Southern Georgia. For more information, visit www.helpendhunger.org