Sharon Heard with her daughter checking out their goods at the food center. Photo by Noah Washington/The Atlanta Voice

The Atlanta Community Food Bank gathered for its 25th anniversary by hosting the 2023 Thanksgiving Media Dish. 

On Monday, Nov, 13th, the food bank hosted several media outlets as they handed out meals in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. The food distribution took place in its newest food distribution center in Marietta, Ga. 

Kyle Waide, CEO of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, shared insights into the organization’s 25-year journey. Waide, who has dedicated 11 years to the food bank, expressed a personal desire to connect with families facing adversity, citing growing up in Mississippi, Wade thinks of the families he is serving in the community not dissimilar from the ones he grew up with, “I was a public school kid and went to school alongside teammates and friends who were facing poverty and food insecurity. What I’ve tried to do in my professional life has been to devote my time to helping folks out like the kids that I grew up with,’ Waide said.

The food bank serves over 200,000 households and distributes approximately 10 million pounds of food monthly across North Georgia, primarily African-American families Waide cites. 

 Sarah Heard, an Atlanta native, was visiting the community food bank in preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday. Heard cited the importance of the food bank in supporting families like hers. With a family of four, she emphasized the critical role that the food bank plays in providing essential resources, “It means a lot, it’s a great opportunity to have good food that is needed for my family to help on this Thanksgiving season. So it’s really a blessing to be here,” Heard told The Atlanta Voice.

Lesley Mercedes, the operations manager at the Community Food Center in Marietta, shared her experience and insights into the ongoing Thanksgiving drive and how she sees her work,  “I used to work for a non-profit organization. But I didn’t feel like there was much worth in my work,” Mercedes, who joined the food bank in April of the current year, shortly before the opening of the newest facility in July, “I wanted to do something that I knew I would go home and say I made a difference in someone’s life today,” Mercedes told The Atlanta Voice

The prices of holiday items have increased this year as a result of inflation. According to a 2023 Thanksgiving report by Wells Fargo, canned cranberries are up 60%, while sweet potatoes are up 4%, and canned green beans are up 9%.

Maurice Johnson, who is from Rochester, New York, visited the food bank to prepare for his holiday season with his sister, grandmother, and extended family after moving to Georgia six years ago at his sister’s suggestion. Johnson cites finding a welcoming community in Marietta. “They are very helpful,” she said. “Very, very helpful, and it’s a blessing that these guys do this. So I really appreciate that.”

Discussing his Thanksgiving plans, Johnson mentioned his initial plan for his mother to join him but explained her unexpected illness. He still plans to prepare Thanksgiving dinner with his family and extended family. “I’ll normally cook like the meat and the greens and my sisters, my grandmother, my nephews, nieces, they’ll come down and we’ll just celebrate Thanksgiving,” Johnson told The Atlanta Voice.

The media dish is also in service of media outlets coming and seeing what the Atlanta Community Food Bank does for the greater community.

Ed Westreiche, director of marketing & communications at the Atlanta Community Food Bank

Coming has been with the Atlanta Community Food Bank for the past five years, but worked in corporate America for over two decades. Reflecting on his career shift, he shared, “I wanted to do something in my second career that was in the Atlanta economy and helping folks.” Formerly involved in various roles, including finance, executive assistance, and leadership training for a North American sales team, Westreiche says he found his way to a more meaningful and impactful career. Citing that he spent years driving through the Atlanta community, he now has an opportunity to be a part of it.

In discussing his current role, Westreiche expressed the satisfaction of being closer to the end of the supply chain, directly impacting those in need. He emphasized the immediacy and significance of the work, noting the stories and faces encountered daily. The media dish is also in service of media outlets coming and seeing what the Atlanta Community Food Bank does for the greater community, “What we’ve been doing is engaging media partners, getting them out from behind the anchor desks, the Nielsen ratings, competition, getting them all in a room and, and just giving him an opportunity hands-on to do a little service,” Westreiche continued.