Representatives from the Atlanta Hawks celebrate as the organization, in collaboration with State Farm, hit the 1,000,000 mark on Saturday (photo courtesy of Kat Goduco/Atlanta Hawks).

The Atlanta Hawks, in partnership with State Farm, took on an ambitious goal of packing one million meals in an effort to fight food insecurity throughout the Greater Atlanta area.

The organizations not only reached that lofty goal; they surpassed it.

On Saturday, more than 5,000 volunteers gathered at State Farm Arena in support of the Atlanta Hawks’ and State Farm’s Million Meal Pack initiative. Divided into six 90-minute shifts, this group of volunteers packed 1,019,232 meals in nine hours.

“We are very grateful for all of today’s volunteers and extremely proud of the results from today’s Million Meal Pack in partnership with State Farm,” said Steve Koonin, CEO of the Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena. “We understand that it is a huge undertaking to tackle food insecurity throughout Atlanta, and we believe that this one-day community service initiative will make an incredible impact and also inspire our communities throughout metro Atlanta.”

Supporting this effort were State Farm Senior Vice President Dan Krause, City of Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, NBA Hall of Famer and Hawks Legend Dikembe Mutombo and Congresswoman Nikema Williams, who all welcomed and thanked the volunteers for donating their time in support of the Hawks’ largest single-day community service initiative. Individuals, families, community groups, schools, churches and businesses gathered alongside volunteers from U.S. Hunger and executives from the Hawks and State Farm to meet the goal of packing over one million meals.

Andrea Carter, the Hawks’ Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility, said that planning for this event was a collaborative event, and she is excited about the opportunity to have an immediate positive impact on Atlanta’s food insecure communities.

“The one million meals are going to help fight food insecurity right here in the city of Atlanta,” said Carter. “While the event is going on, the meals are actually being deployed, so the non-profits are picking them up, and then [the meals] will go out to the community. Next steps are about getting the food into the hands of the people who need it most.”

Volunteers gather outside of State Farm Arena during the Hawks’ and State Farm’s One Million Meal initiative (photo courtesy of Kat Goduco/Atlanta Hawks)

The more-than-one million meals packed will be distributed throughout the metro Atlanta area with the operational support of U.S. Hunger, a hunger relief organization with innovative programs designed to help feed people struggling with food insecurity. Additionally, other local organizations will help distribute the meals: Atlanta Community Food Bank, CHRIS 180, City of Refuge, Fountain of Hope, Georgia State University Panther’s Pantry, Goodr, Meals On Wheels Atlanta, Mimi’s Pantry and Second Helpings Atlanta. 

“The Million Meal Pack event makes a real difference in the lives of Atlanta residents facing food insecurity,” said Dan Krause, Southeastern Market Area Senior Vice President at State Farm. “Our local State Farm agents and employees were proud to be part of this effort, as State Farm is dedicated to giving back and strengthening communities. We’re grateful to all the volunteers and thank State Farm Arena and the Atlanta Hawks for our partnership.”

Statistics provided by the Atlanta Community Food Bank show that nearly one in eight Georgians are living with food insecurity, including one in six children. 

“There is nothing like the energy from 5,000 Atlantans coming together to take care of their community, taking a bold stand in the fight against hunger. After three years of being apart, we’re honored to be invited back by the Hawks and State Farm to help pack one million meals for families in need!” said Rick Whitted, CEO of U.S. Hunger.

The atmosphere in State Farm Arena on Saturday was energetic and celebratory. DJ Chika Takai blasted hip hop music throughout the 21,000-seat arena, while volunteers and Hawks’ staff simultaneously danced and packed meals. Harry the Hawk also bought his unique energy to the event, as he danced and interacted with the younger volunteers.

Casey Baker, a local realtor, joined the initiative with her fellow workout partners from Kennesaw’s tRUCKFIT, because she is an advocate for community service. But she did not expect an event like this one.

“It’s been so much fun. It’s lit in here,’ Baker said. “We’ve been dancing up and down the aisles. I’ve done a lot of community service before, but this is really fun. It’s one thing to know you’re giving back to people; it’s another to be in an environment where you got a DJ, you got [Dikembe] Mutombo in the room. It’s awesome. This is great.”

Continuing to operate as the world’s first TRUE Platinum certified sports and entertainment venue, this event is also marked as the first zero waste Million Meal Pack. As part of this event, State Farm Arena diverted more than 90 percent from landfills that includes all materials generated from load-in to load-out. In an intentional effort, the packaging also uses messaging to encourage recycling within the recipients’ communities.

The Hawks and State Farm hosted their first Million Meal Pack in 2019, where more than 5,000 volunteers filled State Farm Arena and prepared more than one million meals. The meals were then distributed to local Atlantans through seven community food bank organizations. Additionally, both organizations have led efforts in multiple community-focused initiatives to better serve metro Atlanta. In addition to Million Meal Pack, the two organizations have collaborated on high-impact endeavors such as providing free pop-up grocery stores in partnership with Goodr Inc., for elderly and underserved citizens in metro Atlanta and enhancing the Snack Pack Program, which gave over 24,000 snack packs to youth throughout the school year and during summer break. As part of the 2021-22 regular season, the Hawks Foundation and State Farm presented a check of $122,000 to the Atlanta Community Food Bank as an effort to help combat childhood hunger and fight against food insecurity throughout metro Atlanta. The ‘Good Neighbor Giveback’ campaign raised $100 for every point the Hawks scored over 100 in each game during the 2021-22 regular season (originally up to $100,000) and was generously extended from State Farm.