The Need to Restore and Replenish

By Brad McEwen

Despite being located in an agricultural hub where rich farmland abounds, far too many South Georgia residents struggle every day to find enough food to eat.

The problem is so bad, it’s estimated that the poverty that seems to permeate all of southern Georgia, has created a situation where the region is one of the most food-insecure areas in the entire United States, let alone Georgia.

That’s why the work of Second Harvest of South Georgia, a food bank with locations in Valdosta, Thomasville, Douglas and Albany that support some 30 counties in the southern part of the state, is so important.

According to information from Second Harvest, it’s estimated that one in three children in Southwest Georgia suffers from food insecurity, meaning those children don’t know where they’re going to get their next meal.

“That’s an incredibly high number,” Second Harvest of South Georgia Chief Marketing Officer Eliza McCall said recently. “We have the highest rate of childhood food insecurity in the state and the 2nd Congressional District of Georgia has the highest in the nation of any Congressional district, which includes Albany.”

With the region already suffering from a lack of available food, the arrival of Hurricane Michael, a devastating storm which tore through Southwest Georgia on October 10, only served to exacerbate an already tenuous situation and put further strain on area residents.

“We work hard to end hunger in South Georgia but Hurricane Michael, like the tornados last year, created a secondary crisis,” Eliza said. “The hurricane has not only hurt those who were already vulnerable, it has created more food-insecure families.”

Understanding that recovery in the wake of Michael’s wrath would be a lengthy process that will no doubt stretch into the new year, leaders at AB&T have decided to take action to ensure that once the dust has settled and the relief crews that have responded to the immediate crisis have left the area, families facing prolonged food scarcity can begin to restock their pantries through the newly christened Restore & Replenish campaign.

The mission of Restore & Replenish, which is a partnership between Second Harvest and AB&T, is to help the food bank procure and ship food stores to this area to be distributed to families in need through the food bank’s well-established network.

“Hurricane Michael had an enormous impact on our community and it is going to take a long time for this area to fully recover,” said AB&T President and CEO Luke Flatt. “As an organization, AB&T understands that and we feel we absolutely need to do our part to help with that recovery process.

“Having already established a relationship with Second Harvest during the storms that wrought such destruction in 2017, it made sense to reach out to Eliza and find a way to help.”

With Restore & Replenish, Luke said, AB&T is not only able to help families impacted by the hurricane, but the bank is also helping to restock area food stores during a time of the year when food needs are typically great.

“It’s almost like a domino effect,” Luke said. “Disasters like Michael, and last year’s tornados, put immediate strain on food supplies, which then need to be replenished so that the families who traditionally rely on the food bank for nourishment, will have enough to eat. With the holidays and winter months fast approaching the need is even further increased.

“Through Restore & Replenish, the bank is committed to help Second Harvest keep meeting the food needs of our community and make sure that our neighbors are taken care of.”

Eliza concurred with Luke’s assessment saying that there is always greater need during the holiday season due to the fact that children are out of school for extended periods of time.

“During the holidays kids aren’t in school so they’re not getting those meals,” Eliza explained. “They have Thanksgiving break, they have Christmas break. It’s a stressful time for families that rely on that lunch, and usually that breakfast as well, that the school provides.” Eliza added that AB&T’s decision to partner with Second Harvest couldn’t come at a better time, as the non-profit relies heavily on the generosity of its partners to carry out its mission.

“We can do none of our work, or work toward our mission, without the help of our partners in our district,” she said. “So without the help of AB&T and other donors, and without the help of our partner agencies who use us as a resource to help their neighbors in need, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish this. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do.

“The help of AB&T is crucial for us being able to feed as many children as possible.”

Eliza said that because of support like that being provided by partners such as AB&T, Second Harvest, despite the staggering needs in this area, is already having success feeding families throughout Southwest Georgia.

Through its network of over 450 partner agencies, Second Harvest distributed over 20 million pounds of food, which equates to 16.5 million meals, in the last 12 months and is feeding thousands of children daily.

“Second Harvest is doing incredible work,” Luke pointed out. “But there’s still so much that needs to be done. It’s my belief that through Restore & Replenish, we can help them make a difference in the lives of even more children and families.”

The Restore & Replenish partnership is currently accepting monetary donations at all AB&T locations, to be used to bring food to Southwest Georgia. Donations can also be made directly through Second Harvest’s website, feedingsga.org (simply reference “AB&T Restore and Replenish” in the comment section of the online donation form).

Anyone wishing to mail donations can make checks payable to Second Harvest or Restore & Replenish and mail them to:

Restore & Replenish

c/o AB&T

P.O. Drawer 71269 Albany, GA 31708

In addition to monetary donations, AB&T is also accepting food donations at its three locations. Eliza said any canned food, dry goods or non-perishable items are acceptable, as are snack food items.

This year’s Restore & Replenish campaign is tentatively set to run through November 16, but will be extended if need be.

For additional information about the Restore & Replenish partnership or to learn how you can make a difference in the fight to adequately feed our community, contact AB&T Communications Manager Brad McEwen at 229.405.7212 or via email at brad.mcewen@abtgold.com.

When we call work together for the common good, there’s no doubt the impact can be great.

Connect with Brad – 229.405.7212 - brad.mcewen@abtgold.com - @BradGMcEwen 

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