The devastation caused from the pandemic has resulted in food insecurity rates increasing 31% among the general population and nearly 48% among children.

The Atlanta Community Food Bank has worked tirelessly to decrease those rates with the help of their new 345,000 square foot facility, making it the largest nonprofit food bank in the world. 

During the beginning stages of Covid-19, initial inquiries for food assistance jumped 300%. Nearly half of all people requesting the Atlanta Food Bank’s help were doing so for the first time.

“We know that the pandemic really increased food insecurity across the board, particularly among certain groups including families with kids. We’ve seen those rates improve over the last several months,” Kyle Waide, Atlanta Food Bank CEO said. 

The Atlanta Food Bank has been a critical player in the pandemic response, distributing 116 million pounds of food over the past year, and their new facility is a huge reason why.

“At the peak of the pandemic we were distributing 65% more meals than we were before the pandemic. Now, we’re still distributing about one-third more food than before,” Waide said. “We could not support that level of distribution without this new facility. It allows us to move more food to more families, including properly handling and distributing perishable items like eggs and produce.”

Furthermore, the Atlanta Food Bank has been operating for the past 18 months while managing to keep employees and partners as safe as possible from Covid-19. 

“We were fortunate because we had just moved and we were already engaged with updating our protocols,” Waide said. “The adjustments we needed to make were already in motion as a part of that transition. We had to transition into more mobile distributions and drive distributions so people could access food without getting out of their cars.”

The planning process for the new Food Bank headquarters and distribution center started in 2017 when they began figuring out how big the facility needed to be and what capabilities it was going to need. After that, a capital campaign began that raised more than 50 million to help support the building.

Once funding was secured, the location was next and the new Atlanta Food Bank broke ground in October of 2018.

Some of the notated differences for the Atlanta Community Food Bank happens to be their increased freezer space and more storage areas. Waide said they went from six dock doors in their old location to 36.

Although the Atlanta Community Food Bank isn’t yet operating at full capacity, members of the community can still get involved in some way.

“Historically, we have a very robust volunteer program at the Food Bank. We had more than 30,000 food volunteers before the pandemic,” Waide said. “We are still operating at a limited capacity but we have a tremendous support system of 600 community based partners we supply with food. All of those partners are in places where volunteers can get engaged. We depend on support from the community to fund our work.” 

With the holidays right around the corner, the Atlanta Community Food Bank is gearing up for one of their busiest seasons of the year. 

“We’re still operating with a lot of advanced procedures to protect the health and safety of our employees, partners and the neighbors we serve,” Waide said. “We are consistently monitoring guidance from CDC and OSHA on how we can enhance our procedures. We expect to be distributing food at full capacity throughout the holiday season and expect a surge in demand and are prepared to meet it.”

(Volunteer(s) from Feeding Tampa Bay mobile distribution during the COVID crisis.Photo Credit: Courtesy of Atlanta Community Food Bank)