Survey shows nearly 800,000 north Georgians need food banks



ATLANTA - September is Hunger Action Month and a new local survey is shedding light on how many people in north Georgia need help from food banks.

Channel 2’s Erin Coleman got a look at the numbers and spoke to one couple who said they, like many others, are having a hard time making ends meet.

“Our bills are just eating us alive,” Joretta Ward said.

Ward was diagnosed with Leukemia last year and said she and her husband never had to go to a food bank before last year.

“It was a choice between my medicine and my food and I know I had to have that medicine,” Ward said.

Leaders at the Atlanta Community Food Bank say the numbers show it.

“755,000 people, one out of every seven people, in our service territory has cause to come to a food pantry or some other feeding program over the course of a year,” Richard LeBer said.

Leber says that’s what they found after a four month survey of the 600 agencies they serve. The results just came in for the 29-county area in north Georgia.

“We physically visited over 100 agencies with a staff of more than 100 staff and volunteers and we conducted interviews with the clients that were at that agency that day. These numbers are very reliable,” LeBer said.

Last fiscal year, the food bank distributed more than 50 million pounds of food. That’s a 13 percent increase over the year before.

But there are still some signs of slow recovery.

“Food stamp participation numbers are starting to trend down slightly. They've been very high since 2008 and the recession,” LeBer said.

However, hunger is a problem they say is not going away. And for people like Ward, who depend on area food banks, they don’t know what would happen without them.

Orange is the color for Hunger Action Month. Food bank leaders say the more people who are aware that this is a persistent problem, the more help they can give.

Kroger grocery stores announced a new program Thursday to help local food banks.

Starting Sunday, shoppers can “pour it forward” to provide shelters with milk.

Kroger says it’s an item local food banks need, but do not often get.

Shoppers will be able to help by donating money at checkout. The pour it forward program runs through Sept. 27.

Channel 2 Action News

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