The Atlanta Community Food Bank has opened its first “Community Food Center” in Gwinnett County, with plans to distribute more than half a million meals to the community over the next year.
The pantry will be the first directly operated by the food bank outside of its headquarters in East Point. Normally, the food bank distributes much of its food through its nearly 700 community partners, a network of independent pantries, ministries and charities.
The new center, which held a grand opening Wednesday, is located at 1979 Parker Court in the Stone Mountain area, near the Gwinnett-DeKalb line. Food bank CEO Kyle Waide said the organization chose that location because many in the area experience food insecurity and there are not many other food pantries nearby.
“There are gaps in our distribution network that we are looking to fill,” Waide said.
The food bank has not yet announced the hours of operation for the new location or a schedule for upcoming food drives, but Waide said they plan to “experiment” with that at first.
The organization plans to open more community food centers around metro Atlanta, though no firm plans have been announced. The idea was in the works before the pandemic hit, Waide said.
“We feel a great deal of urgency to get more food to more people ... given the level of demand has increased,” he said. “This is going to help us do that.”
Credit: Ben Gray
Credit: Ben Gray
Officials said the new site will also be a distribution point for food to go out to traditional pantries and other partners in the area. The food bank hopes to distribute 650,000 pounds of food from the pantry over the next year, equating to just under 550,000 meals.
Food insecurity has risen across metro Atlanta and the state during the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in long lines at drive-thru food drives. The rate of food insecurity in the southern Gwinnett area was already higher than some other parts of the region before the pandemic, Waide said.
“After the pandemic, we know it has increased significantly. The need for additional food is even more urgent,” he said. County-wide, almost 10% of residents experienced food insecurity before the pandemic; that could jump to 14% as a result of the coronavirus, according to projections from Feeding America.
Donors for the new pantry include the rapper Offset of the Atlanta-based group Migos, UnitedHealthcare and Publix.
The food bank is looking for volunteers for the new center; interested residents can visit www.acfb.org/volunteer to learn more.
If you or someone you know is in need of food, visit the food bank’s website at www.acfb.org or text “FindFood” in English or “Comida” in Spanish to 888-976-2232 to receive a list of food pantries near you.