When was the last time you went to bed hungry? Maybe you voluntarily fasted for 24 hours or had a busy day with little time to eat. But going to bed hungry because there’s no food in the house is a whole different, scary experience. One that too many of our neighbors in North Georgia experience regularly.
But the reality is, we can all do something to help those in need. By giving our time, resources, and attention to hunger relief efforts, we can work towards a future where no one goes hungry. In this blog, we’ll explore the challenges of food insecurity in North Georgia and highlight ways we can all contribute to feeding hungry families.
Understanding the Growing Problem of Hunger in North Georgia
Did you know an estimated 45,000 people in North Georgia are going hungry on a regular basis, including nearly 10,000 school-age children? And yet, Forsyth County, one of the main counties Meals by Grace (MBG) serves, is the wealthiest county in Georgia, not to mention one of the top 20 wealthiest in the nation. How can the situation be so desperate in such an affluent area?
Food insecurity—the lack of access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food for an active and healthy life—is a multifaceted issue that can affect anyone in a myriad of circumstances. Here are the main reasons why it’s hitting North Georgia so hard.
Factors Contributing to Hunger in North Georgia
For many families, food insecurity happens by a snowball effect. When they don’t have enough money to support one area of life, other areas begin to suffer, eventually leading to not having enough food. Here are some of the most prevalent problems Meals by Grace sees hungry families struggling with:
Affordable housing in North Georgia is all but non-existent. In this affluent area, low-income families are continually forced to move further from expensive parts of the county. If they do find housing, it’s most likely a very small space for a family to share. If they move to an area they can afford, they may have to find new jobs, new schools, new doctors, and live further from community resources like Meals by Grace.
Astronomical food prices over the past few years have affected all of us (the recent egg shortage of 2023, anyone?). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices in Georgia have steadily increased from 2020 to today. In official government-speak, here’s what the Bureau says:
The food index advanced 9.4 percent for the 12 months ending in February. The food at home index rose 8.5 percent over the past year as all six major grocery store food group indexes increased. The food away from home index also continued to increase over the past year, up 11.4 percent.U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Here’s what that increase in Georgia’s consumer price index (CPI) looks like from February 2020-February 2023.
For families with stable incomes, crazy food prices might not make a massive impact on their monthly spending. But for a family struggling to make ends meet? These prices have been devastating. Low-income families now have to either buy less food or settle for cheaper, less nutritious food. Neither option is a solution! No one should be at risk of malnutrition in our area.
Food Stamps Aren’t Enough
What about food stamps? The government does help fill some gaps for many hungry families. But the system is very flawed and can often keep a family stuck in poverty. The amount of food covered by stamps has not increased in five years, which means families can’t afford all they need even with help. On top of that, food stamps are hard to qualify for and incredibly easy to lose—even $1 over the limit and you can lose all government aid. So if a single parent needs help feeding their kids and then takes another job to try to get ahead, they could lose the government’s help, be on their own, and have to requalify again with a lower income.
In a single-parent situation, say a mom or dad is trying to provide for two to three children on their own, so they either need multiple jobs or a higher-paying job to take care of the family. They’re barely getting by as it is and currently don’t have a car. This means they need public transportation until they can afford a car. Even more importantly, they’ll need to find somewhere for the kids to go while they’re at work. They can try before/after school programs if their kids are of age, but what about the weekends? And what if a child gets sick and can’t go to school for a few days? The mental and logistical gymnastics that many parents in our community do just to hold down a job and get enough food on the table is enough to exhaust anyone.
Lack of Social Services
We know there are approximately 10,000 school-age hungry children in North Georgia, but that’s only because these children have been flagged by a teacher or social worker. It’s much more difficult for social services to be aware of the thousands more who are dealing with hunger and malnutrition throughout our area. There are little children not in school yet, senior citizens living alone, and countless others in between who are not under any sort of care by local social workers. And if social services aren’t aware of these individuals struggling with hunger and malnutrition, it’s even harder for Meals by Grace and other community organizations to help.
Fewer Community Resources
Meals by Grace strives to feed everyone we possibly can, but sometimes there’s just not enough food to go around. When donations are low and the need is so high, we wind up having to turn people away and even cut back on how many families we can regularly serve. Nothing breaks our hearts more than this! And sadly, MBG isn’t the only food ministry that’s dealing with this problem, either.
These are just some of the reasons why hunger and food insecurity are hitting North Georgia so hard. And there are serious consequences if we as a community don’t step in to help. Children are at risk of delayed physical growth, weakened immune systems, poor mental health, and lowered ability to learn and succeed in school. Adults are at risk of the same threats, too. If we are truly for our community, then we have to get creative and do all we can to end hunger in North Georgia.
Taking Action: How We Can End Hunger in North Georgia
While “ending hunger” sounds daunting, there are tons of practical steps we can take as a community to help thousands of hungry families right away.
Increase Food Distribution
Food distribution is the most urgent first step to ending hunger. One of the most impactful ways the community can help is by supporting meal programs and distribution efforts. Meals by Grace distributes food to 100+ families every week, which means we need food, volunteers to pack the food, volunteers to deliver the food, and money to keep it all going week in and week out.
By volunteering, donating, or advocating with organizations like Meals by Grace, you can help ensure that fewer of your neighbors go hungry. Other organizations like Atlanta Community Food Bank, Feeding the Valley, and America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia also distribute millions of pounds of food to individuals and families in need each year.
Tackling the issue of poverty is fundamental to addressing hunger in North Georgia. If someone in poverty doesn’t have the resources to find a good job that provides for them and their family, they’ll always be at risk of hunger again. They will keep running into the “day late, dollar short” cycle, scrambling to find food and getting derailed from their end goal of being self-sustaining.
As a community, we can help provide life skills and job training programs, advocate for policies that promote economic opportunities, and support the creation of affordable housing options. Supporting initiatives that aim to reduce income inequality and promote economic empowerment can also play a crucial role in alleviating hunger.
Educate and Raise Awareness
One of the biggest obstacles facing hunger relief efforts in North Georgia is simply awareness. Many people don’t realize the extent of food insecurity or how they can help. By spreading the word about organizations like Meals by Grace and sharing stories about hunger’s impact on our fellow Georgians, we can start to shift public perception and encourage more people to get involved.
Practical ways to educate your community about hunger is to organize community events, workshops, and campaigns. Talk about the problem at your churches, schools, and clubs, and share solutions like donating to Meals by Grace! We want to build awareness, empathy, and compassion within our community.
Ending hunger requires collective efforts from various stakeholders, including local governments, nonprofits, businesses, faith-based organizations, and individuals. Collaborating and forming partnerships can help leverage resources, expertise, and networks that together will bring lasting solutions. It’s truly a team effort, and all these different groups will need to work together to create systemic change.
Support Sustainable Solutions
Implementing long-term, sustainable solutions is what will make the biggest impact on ending hunger in North Georgia. Initiatives that promote local food production, such as community gardens, farmers’ markets, and aquaponic gardens will help provide thousands of pounds of fresh, nourishing produce to families in need.
Sustainability as a ministry and sustainability for our families is a huge value at Meals by Grace. Our ultimate end goal for every family that comes to us is that they will one day be completely self-sustaining, able to provide for themselves and help others, too.
MBG also has an in-house social worker who works with families to create a plan for them to get ahead in life. We’re not just a “give a man a fish” food pantry, because food is just one resource that we provide. We are teaching those in need “how to fish” too. When you give monthly, you’re providing ongoing, all-inclusive help that makes individual lives, families, and our entire community better.
Here’s an inside look at the impact your gifts make through Meals by Grace!
Now’s the Time to End Hunger in North Georgia
By coming together as a community and implementing effective strategies, we have the power to combat hunger and create a future where every North Georgian has access to the food they need. It will take a lot of work and a lot of people, but through simple actions like donating to a food bank, volunteering at a meal program, or advocating for change, we can all make a difference in the fight against food insecurity.
No one should have to go hungry, and with your help, we can work towards a future where our neighbors have access to the nourishing food they need to thrive. Will you give the gift of regular food to a family in North Georgia?
You can feed a whole family every month for the following amounts.
- $28/month = 2 meals
- $56/month = 4 meals
- $98/month = 7 meals
Individuals can help feed the hungry by donating to Meals By Grace, local food banks and pantries, volunteering at Meals By Grace, advocating for policies that support food security, reducing food waste, and supporting local agriculture and food systems.
Food insecurity is the lack of access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food for an active and healthy life.
Food insecurity can be caused by a variety of factors, including poverty, unemployment, low wages, lack of access to education and healthcare, housing scarcity, food prices, lack of social services, and fewer community resources.
Hunger affects people of all ages, genders, races, and ethnicities, but it disproportionately impacts low-income households, children, seniors, and marginalized communities.
Not having enough food can lead to malnutrition, poor health outcomes, lower academic and work performance, mental health problems, and social isolation.
Feeding hungry people requires a multi-faceted approach, including increasing access to affordable, nutritious food, improving economic opportunities and reducing poverty, educating the public to raise awareness, strengthening social safety nets, and addressing the root causes of food insecurity.