Just as the coronavirus pandemic was starting to ramp up, the Atlanta Community Food Bank (acfb.org) moved into its brand new, 345,000 square foot building in East Point. The new space, the largest food bank facility in the nation, was immediately pressed into service to help students, their families and those left hungry after school and business closures.
ACFB and its network of 700 partners will began delivering 10,000 pounds of food each week to 20 different sites across five school districts, including Atlanta Public Schools, to feed those in need.
The nonprofit also launched Text For Help, a food assistance program where people can simply text “findfood” in English or “comida” in Spanish to 888-976-2232. The system will then automatically request a zip code or address in order to provide addresses of the three closest food pantries as well as contact information for each.
ACFB President and CEO Kyle Waide said ACFB first moved to protect its employees and the new facility by suspending outside volunteers. However, that meant many long nights and staff from other departments working round the clock to keep the facility clean and food sorted and processed for shipping to its partners.
“We got into the new facility then had to hit the gas pedal in a big way,” Waide said. “We had to work aggressively to get the food to those who need it.”
ACFB will weather the public health crisis, but the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 will be more of a challenge, Waide said.
“We are going to be serving more food to more people for an undetermined amount of time,” he said. “We’ll need more volunteers and food donations, but what we will need most is monetary donations. We can buy more and stretch those dollars. For every $1 donated, we can buy four meals for the community.”
As ACFB prepares to meet the challenge ahead, Waide said the new facility is the perfect hub for it. The organization looked at more than 50 sites around the city before it found the 60-acres of land (most of which will be left as greenspace) on North Desert Drive in East Point not far from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The organization had been its former home on the Westside since 2004, which Waide described as a great run and opportunity to grow the organization. “We liked that building, but we knew it would not support our aspirations for the future.”