Second Harvest – Coming to the Rescue to Feed Children

Second Harvest of South Georgia has been on the front line battling the war against hunger since 1982.

According to Feeding America, in 2020, an estimated 1 in 8 people were considered food insecure, equating to more than 38 million people. In South Georgia, the hunger crisis is more severe, with 1 in 5 children facing “food insecurity,” meaning they lack consistent access to enough food for an active and healthy life.

Working with more than 400 agency partners in 26 counties, in 2021 Second Harvest distributed more than 19 million meals, including approximately 8,000 pantry boxes each month as part of its mobile food distribution program.

During the past two years, Second Harvest has hosted mobile food distribution events three times a month—rotating between Valdosta, Thomasville, and Tifton—serving thousands of South Georgia families at each event.

As the need for food continued to rise during the COVID-19 pandemic, Second Harvest got creative with food distribution from the Georgia Nutrition Assistance Program (GNAP) program.

“COVID closures were preventing families from accessing this food at our partner agencies, because many of them had either curbed their hours or closed,” said Eliza McCall, chief marketing officer with Second Harvest. “The food was not moving like it needed to be, and we had to find another way to get food to families and children.”

Funded through a grant from the Georgia Assembly and the Department of Human Services, GNAP allows food banks, such as Second Harvest, to purchase groceries and distribute to partner agencies that serve a large percentage of children, including afterschool programs, family shelters, and child care centers.

Urgently needing to serve children considered “at-risk” for food insecurity, Second Harvest created Child Nutrition Packs that include non-perishable items like spaghetti, peanut butter, and canned meat.

While already distributing food boxes during the monthly mobile events, McCall said, “This became the best way to quickly reach more families with children.”

In 2021, Second Harvest distributed 16,162 GNAP boxes and hundreds of thousands of meals and snacks through Kid’s Café, a feeding program for at-risk school-aged children.

While Second Harvest relies on federal assistance, grants, and food donations from more than 90 national companies, individual and corporate monetary donations allow the food bank to continue its mission to feed the region’s most vulnerable families and children.

According to McCall, for every dollar that Second Harvest receives, they can distribute food equivalent to 8.77 meals.

In 2021, Second Harvest received funds from the Greater Valdosta United Way Bruce Williams Impact Grant to purchase staff uniforms and cold-rain gear.

“Our United Way is key to helping nonprofits like us tap into individual employee giving in area companies,” said Second Harvest Executive Director Frank Richards. “At Second Harvest we are really excited about the new avenues for funding they have been bringing into our community the past two years.”

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