Food Bank Running Low on Inventory

The Corner News:

The East Alabama Food Bank is facing a serious problem: a severe shortage of their food inventory.

The cause: the Food Bank has been putting out more than they have been bringing in.

In other words, they are lacking the amount of food donations they need to put meals on families’ and individuals’ plates every night. While food donations generally ebb and flow throughout the year, during the summer months and into winter specifically, there is an increased amount of need among the community. But while the Food Bank is feeding more people, they are also experiencing a lack of donations, which presents a problem.

“We are having to rely on the local community more than ever before,” Martha Henk, the director of the East Alabama Food Bank, said.

“Last year nearly 66 percent of the food we distributed came from the local community. That is a dramatic shift from previous years, where the national food bank network played a much larger role.”

Because the Food Bank relies so heavily on local donations, food drives, such as the annual “Beat Bama” drive are huge contributors to how many families eat a decent meal.

Apart from the classic “Beat Bama” drive, new food drives are being created to assist in the Food Bank’s efforts to generate inventory levels. One produced by Auburn University students, the Auburn Coffee Crawl, is an attempt to reach a large market of people able to participate. Designed and organized by Auburn’s Committee of 19, the coffee crawl breathes new life into an old cause.

Participants can purchase early bird passes for $6.27 and partake in a two-week long crawl from November 14-21 that gives users savings at coffee shops around Auburn. The key fact: every cent raised goes directly to the Food Bank.

“This event is primarily a fundraiser for the Food Bank of East Alabama, but it also serves to form connections with small local businesses and families in the community. We all have something to bring to the table to end hunger, and this is a good way to meet together,” Hannah Hashimi, member of the Committee of 19 explains.

Mama Mocha’s, Toomer’s Coffee, Overall Company, Coffee Cat and Wake Up Coffee Co. are the five shops participating this year. Not only does the crawl give you discounts at these shops, but also gets you in to Overall Company’s “Barista Throwdown” on Nov. 21. But the importance of these events are the amount of people that participate.

The tickets are the driving force behind the monetary donations to the Food Bank. The more participants equals more money for the Food Bank. With more campaigns being created, such as the Coffee Crawl and others around Auburn, the hopes of raising the inventory levels are high.

Another campaign that hopes to increase food bank levels is a newly developed program, The Food Project, designed by the East Alabama Food Bank. Its goal is to increase community involvement with donating. Instead of sporadic donations by community members, The Food Project will encourage monthly donations from participants, which helps create a steady supply of food, while developing a sense of community involvement and togetherness.

The importance of community donations is higher than ever. While there was once a stream of donations from larger sources, such as the United States Drug Administration (USDA) and the National Food Bank, the harsh impact of the nation’s economy has affected the amount of resources available.

“During economic downturns, food manufacturers are careful not to produce more than they can sell and retailers are careful not to order more than they can sell. Then there is also competition with flea markets and second-hand stores,” Henk explains. All these factors play a role in the lack of contributions by larger sources.

Regaining the food inventory is a multi-veined problem.

Relying on multiple sources for donations- with many of them being unable to provide adequate amounts, puts the Food Bank in a tight spot. And with so many hungry adults and children just in our local area, the need for citizens to play a more active role in donating is crucial. But many citizens still are not aware of the poverty issue within their community.

As Hashimi says: “One in five children in Lee County are food insecure, and that is one too many. Sadly, hunger hides in the face of both the unemployed and the employed. With this being the case, it is important for us to provide services to everyone who is in need. Poverty also affects all areas of life from health issues to financial issues.”

Approximately 149,000 people are served by the East Alabama Food Bank. Poverty comes in all shapes and sizes. Your next-door neighbor could be struggling to put food on the table every night without you realizing it.

“There’s a Yiddish proverb that says, ‘The one sitting in a warm bath thinks the whole town is warm!’ For those who don’t struggle with the issue of hunger themselves, many of them are not really aware of the extent of the problem,” Henk says.

Whether it is the elderly, homeless, jobless or families with low-income, the basic human need for food should be met. Help be the change in your community.

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