United Way 211 helpline feeding Ga. families in need

United Way 211 helpline feeding Ga. families in need

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Most of us walk in the kitchen right now and find at least something, even if it's not what we really want, to make fore dinner. But, it might sound surprising to learn that food is in very low supply in thousands of metro Atlanta homes.

In the last year, the United Way's 211 helpline received about 30,000 calls from local people asking for help buying food. The FOX Medical Team's Beth Galvin took a closer look at this vital program that's working hard to fill a very basic need.

They come for faith. And, food. And, Ebony Sturdivant says what she found in the basement of this Grant Park church has become a lifeline.

"I was looking on United Way for a food pantry because I'd fallen on hard times with my family," Sturdivant said.

That was two years ago. Both she and her husband had been laid off from their jobs and they had four children to feed.

"And I came across a food co-operative. I didn't know what that was," Sturdivant said. "And when I checked, I'd seen that it was in my area."

It was the Georgia Avenue Community Ministry Food Co-op, one of about 600 co-ops and food pantries helping North Georgia families keep food on their tables.

Sturdivant  said, "I could save from what I get in the boxes, from my family size. I'm saving $200-300 a month just getting the boxes from here."

Co-op members like Brenda Thomas pay $4 a visit and pick up their food box every other week.

Thomas said, "It helps for me because one week I get paid, and the next week I don't have any groceries or whatever else, it kind of works."

She says with her cooking for her elderly diabetic mother and two brothers, each box of food helps stretch the food they have.

Brenda Thomas said, "Oh, it balances very well because sometimes if you don't, if you've got some meat at home, you might not have a vegetable to go with it. Come to the co-op and you get a vegetable."

 Georgia Avenue Community Ministry now has six food co-ops, totaling about 300 members.

Executive Director Chad Hale says the members pick which food to buy, dividing it between families.

"And there's kind of a conversation that goes on about what do we want to order," Hale said.

In Summer, the co-op buys from local organic farmers, making fresh, locally grown produce affordable for members. Hale says the whole idea is to help each other eat well --  even when money is tight.

Hale said "For me, it starts with that basic concept to love your neighbor as yourself.  And if you think about what you need, and you will that to your neighbor as well. You want to be healthy, you want your children to be healthy and your grandchildren to be healthy."

Sturdivant said, "We're all here for a need.  The food is for our nourishment.  The faith is for our souls."

Because the need is great, the Georgia Avenue Food Co-op has a waiting list. Anyone who needs help with food now should contact the United Way by calling its 211 helpline. They'll ask for your zip code and they'll be able to help you find several food assistant programs in your area.

More Info:

Georgia Avenue Food Co-op Website

Georgia Avenue Food Co-op Facebook page

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