The first car in line, a black Honda CRV, pulled up to a yellow line spray painted on the ground outside of the Feeding GA Families headquarters. As soon as the car stopped a network of workers led by Feeding GA Families co-founder/CFO Alicia Rivera approached with one mission in mind: feeding the people. Some of the patrons pre-registered online making the process faster and more efficient, others made their requests through their passenger side windows. All received boxes of food that are donated from all over the state and kept fresh by Feeding GA Families week after week.
The driver in the black CRV popped the trunk and what followed was a synchronized dance only made possible by people that have been doing this for a long time. Once Rivera was done checking the driver in via an online registration on her phone she shouted to Feeding GA Families staffers stationed behind her, “One of everything,” and the crew went to work. Boxes of food and bags of vegetables were placed in the trunk. Then it was done and they were on to the next vehicle. This sequence would play out from 4 p.m. to a little after 8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 29. The food drive is scheduled every Monday from 5-6:30 p.m., according to the Feeding GA Families social media accounts and its website, but word of mouth travels fast, particularly during a time when food and gas prices are rising steadily. “This is about health and to have the resources here for people to improve their well-being,” said Rivera when asked what the goal of the food drive was.
Rivera and her husband/co-founder William Joyner, the star of the social media videos on the company’s Instagram and Facebook accounts, started the non-profit 12 years ago and on Mondays more than 150 cars line up down West Point Avenue near I-285, not far from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, to receive donations of fruit, vegetables, grains, meat, vegan options, and perishable items such as female hygiene products and diapers.
The goal is help get people from week-to-week and the impression of them being in line for donations because they are poor or unemployed is way off. Stereotypes and race were non-existent Monday night as a white Mercedes-Benz pulled up behind an older model red Ford F-1 pickup truck with trash piled in the cab and on the bed. The drivers were Black and white, with kids in tow and without, senior citizens and young couples. On a couple occasions there were people that walked up and were allowed to collect their food. “This is about feeding Georgia families and providing them with good clean food and a warm meal,” said Janet Silverman of The Good Charcoal Company. Silverman was on site to help deliver barbecue sandwiches to the people in line.
“5 vegan,” yelled Rivera from her position at the front of the line. Silverman would take those sandwich orders and hustle over to the trailer that was there to distribute the warm food.
A partnership with The Good Charcoal Co., a New York-based business that makes its product with pure acacia hardwood lump charcoal, allowed for Athens-based Biggum’s Bar-B-Que to be on site to distribute close to 300 barbecue sandwiches to patrons throughout the night. “It makes us feel good to know that we are helping someone,” Biggum’s owner/operator Krista DeFoor said. She was working with her daughter and son who were packaging the sandwiches and bags of chips.
The Good Charcoal Co. and Feeding GA Families have gotten together several times this year to make the Monday food drive a little easier on families waiting in line by getting a hot meal in their hands after a long wait. All profits from every bag of the company’s charcoal sold online at HomeDepot.com -its not available in stores yet- goes to Feeding GA Families. “We are doing this all over the country, and if it can work in small cities like Bentonville, Arkansas, we can do it anywhere,” said Silverman.
The Good Charcoal Co. started in New York during the pandemic in 2020 and since then there have been participation in food drives at pantries like Feeding GA Families all over the country, Silverman says. “This year we have been in Boynton Beach (FL), Minneapolis, East Nashville, Tuscaloosa (AL), Houston, Seattle and we are headed to The Bronx next,” she said. “I love making a difference, it is our company’s mission.”
Feeding GA Families get assistance from a number of sources. The buckets of flowers that were delivered to every car in line Monday were donated by Trader Joes. The palates of dog and cat food that lined the sidewalk were gifts from The Atlanta Humane Society. The organization donates the pet food every 4-6 weeks. The Atlanta Community Food Bank also donates food while the Walmart in Riverdale has donated returned home goods such as vacuums, blenders, microwaves, lawn trimmers. “It takes a village,” Silverman said.
There are also donations of socks and underwear, for example, from citizens, says Joyner. “People are always looking to donate items and we truly appreciate it.”
The Hello Fresh food stacked high in the freezers was donated by Saving Our Sons and Sisters International (Sossi), an Atlanta-based non-profit.
Last year 240,000-plus people received groceries and household items from Feeding Ga Families, according to Joyner, who drives a 20-foot refrigerated box truck around the city during the week, making pickups in order to prepare for Mondays.
Feeding GA Families is looking to move into a bigger space in the near future. The current headquarters is twice the size of the former offices but has quickly grown smaller due to the donations and needs of the community. The company is currently raising capital for a future move. The rent on the current space has gone up the year and will continue to do so as Atlanta-area
Feeding GA Families is located at 2514 West Point Avenue. People looking to donate to the organization can find out how via its website feedinggafamilies.org.