A Note from our CEO Frank Richards
It’s time we stop calling food banks charities. Let’s start calling them what they really are: critical infrastructure. We are in the planning stages of a major project for the food bank. A few weeks ago I was in a meeting about this proposed project, and someone asked why public tax dollars should be given to a non-profit.
This comment was made by a prominent leader in our community, and it really sat wrong with me for two main reasons. First, the average person doesn’t really understand all the roles food banks play in a community. Second, if food banks cease to exist in a community, the majority of the social service infrastructure in that area fails or suffers. We do a good job telling our story, but the community leader’s comment brings up a good point. We have not done a good job of explaining our role as critical infrastructure.
When people hear “food bank”, they normally think I hand out bags of groceries from a closet in the corner of a church. (For the record, that’s a food PANTRY.)The average community member doesn’t know that we are a $35 million corporation, that we are one of the larger logistics operations in the area, and that we have one of the biggest cooler/freezer in South Georgia. They do not understand that hundreds of non-profit and churches in South Georgia rely on us for food and supplies for their program. They do not understand that thousands of South Georgia kids count on us for their evening meal. They don’t know that teachers come to us to equip their classrooms. They don’t realize that rural communities can’t survive without us.
We execute our day-to-day programs with amazing efficiency, and we still step in to provide disaster relief for communities both small and large. We step in when water systems go down for municipalities and healthcare systems. We are the key service provider after hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. We are the go-to agency for just about any issue a community faces where food, water, and supplies are needed.
The reality is that if the infrastructure doesn’t exist in a community to provide a food safety net, unrest can happen quickly in an emergency situation. Just look at how people freaked out during the early days of COVID – about toilet paper of all things! Everyone knows when a disaster or crisis is threatened or happens that you can’t find bread, milk, or water on any store shelf.
The pandemic created a crisis of supply and demand. People had a hard time finding anything for a few weeks, and we are still seeing high prices due to market conditions. COVID showed that feeding kids who can’t get the school meals they so desperately need and distributing mass quantities of food commodities keeps our community moving and functioning. It lowers the stress for folks wondering and worrying how they’ll feed their families.
Food banks are not just non-profits. We are critical infrastructure in the community. We are first responders and essential front-line workers. We make sure that families are fed when schools are closed and store shelves are bare. Our leaders need to be reminded that funding our work helps maintain stability in our community – in times of crisis and on a daily basis.
We are excited to announce that Teachers’ Harvest will reopen on Tuesday, September 22, 2020 at 3 pm. We will be open Tuesdays only for now. We will have specific rules in place due to COVID-19. Eligibility rules and shopping rules remain the same.
Teachers, guidance counselors or media specialists working in a public school in our service region are eligible to shop with us. Your eligibility is based on your position and on the location of the school in which you work NOT where you reside. Click HERE to see a map of our service area.
Please note that paraprofessionals, administrators and other staff are not eligible. Private schools, day care centers, preschools, Headstart programs and homeschooling groups are also ineligible to participate.
For those who’ve never been before, you must bring proof of employment for the current school year; it must show your position at the school. Acceptable forms of proof include school ID (with title) or driver’s license with a letter from your administrator, faculty roster, contract (if it shows your position), etc. Pay stubs or contracts that only show certification level will not be accepted. For returning teachers, you can just sign-in when you get there. If you have changes to your registration, email Noel at NValdez@feedingsga.org.
Shopping begins at 3 pm. We will allow 10 people in at a time. All shoppers will be required to provide their own mask and wear it while they are in line or inside. Social distancing is required. You will have 15 minutes to shop and then our staff will take 5 minutes to disinfect and reset.
Entry times will be every 20 minutes from 3-6 pm. The final shoppers will enter at 5:40. You may shop once per month.
NO Buddy Box shopping is allowed for the foreseeable future.
There will be product available inside and outside the store. For more information on that, check out our Facebook group.
On Wednesday, Second Harvest of South Georgia and AgGeorgia Farm Credit announced Homegrown Help, a new joint initiative to combat the effects of COVID-19 in the area. The Farm Credit cooperative is a long-time supporter of the food bank’s work, but Homegrown Help marks the first partnership between the two organizations. Click HERE to give today!
Disasters and emergency situations like the COVID-19 outbreak compound our existing food insecurity crisis. The pandemic and related closures have drastically increased the need for food assistance in South Georgia. Since March, Second Harvest has distributed double the amount of food it had in 2019 – an additional 2 million meals worth. The need is only anticipated to grow as unemployment benefits run out later this summer.
South Georgia’s agriculture community has likewise been hit incredibly hard. With schools and restaurants closed, our area growers have few market outlets. They have seen too much supply and not enough demand. Few processing options exist in the region to extend the shelf life of these valuable crops.
This is where Homegrown Help comes in – to benefit not just the families needing food but also our area farmers. Funds raised will go to purchase Georgia Grown produce; in turn, the food bank will provide these nutritious fruits and vegetables to families in need. AgGeorgia Farm Credit, as co-founder of this campaign, has committed $25,000 to this initiative as part of a larger $50,000 total donation to regional food banks in their service area. Second Harvest anticipates many local individuals and businesses will want to contribute to this fundraising campaign and has several large donors who have already expressed interested. Individuals can donate by texting “HOMEGROWN” to 619-870-1680, or by going to www.feedingsga.org.
“We really appreciate AgGeorgia and Second Harvest partnering together on this,” said Justin Corbett of Corbett Brothers Farms, long-time produce growers in Lake Park, Georgia. “For many years we have supported Second Harvest and understand the great benefit that they provide in our community. We are also proud to be a member of an organization like AgGeorgia Farm Credit that is willing to step in to help in times like these.”
For Second Harvest and AgGeorgia, the project was the perfect fit and opportunity to work together.
“We are thrilled to partner with Second Harvest on this campaign, and we invite other organizations and individuals to support this effort,” said AgGeorgia Farm Credit Board Chairman Dave Neff. “It is wonderful to be able to get local produce to families in need while simultaneously supporting Georgia farmers.”
“We are so excited about Homegrown Help because of the positive impact it will have not just on our neighbors in need but on the farmers who live, work, and worship right here in South Georgia,” added Eliza McCall, Second Harvest of South Georgia’s Chief Marketing Officer.
SHSG needs volunteers to staff a special COVID-19 response project. Many metro areas have a 211 information line that citizens can call to get referrals for assistance. South Georgians don’t have access to that type of service, but Second Harvest is stepping up to help by establishing a temporary referral line.
We are transforming our lobby into a call center to field questions from folks in need in the communities we serve. Our volunteers will refer them to the appropriate group for help. Whether they need food, rental assistance, mental health services, etc., we will point them in the right direction.
This center will be open Monday – Thursday from 8 am – 4 pm until further notice. We are seeking 6-12 volunteers every week to help with this project. The ideal volunteers will have great communication skills, knowledge of the area, and be able to commit to at least one week of half or whole day shifts. Social workers, teachers, and recent college graduates are examples of some good fits for this project. Volunteers must be able to pass a basic medical screening. We will provide lunch each day.
For more information, call (229) 469-6925 or email PR@feedingsga.org.
Second Harvest of South Georgia will be holding three pantry box distribution events in the coming weeks to help those affected by COVID-19.
One box per adult household representative. Maximum of 2 households per vehicle.
Second Harvest of South Georgia has put the following protocols in place in response to the novel Coronavirus outbreak as of March 23, 2020.
All employees, volunteers, and visitors are screened prior to entering the building. Individuals who are suspected of having COVID-19 or of having been directly exposed to the virus will immediately be removed from our campus and sent for COVID-19 screening.
Return to Work Criteria for Employees with Confirmed or Suspected COVID-19 (derived from the CDC Guidance for Healthcare Personnel)
Second Harvest staff members suspected of having COVID-19 or in direct contact with infected individuals will be sent for screening immediately. If they do not meet criteria for testing, we will follow the CDC’s non-test-based strategy for returning to work. Staff members will be excluded from work until:
- At least 3 days (72 hours) have passed since recovery. Recovery is defined as the resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g. cough, shortness of breath); and
- At least 7 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
If staff members were never tested for COVID-19 but have an alternate diagnosis (e.g. tested positive for strep, influenza, etc.), criteria for returning to work will be based on that diagnosis.
After returning to work, staff will:
- Wear a facemask at all times while in the facility until all symptoms are resolved or until 14 days after illness onset, whichever is longer
- Be restricted from contact with child feeding operations, partner agencies, volunteers, and immunocompromised staff until 14 days after illness onset
- Adhere to hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, and cough etiquette in CDC’s interim infection control guidance (cover nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, dispose of tissues in waste receptacles)
- Self-monitor for symptoms, and seek re-evaluation from medical professional if symptoms recur or worsen
If you have questions about our protocols pertaining to the novel coronavirus COVID-19, please contact us at 229-244-2678 x 1101.
Our Second Harvest team is coordinating with communities across our service area to determine where we can best complement relief efforts, if any, that may be planned. We are partnering with area school systems including Valdosta City Schools, Berrien County Schools, Brooks County Schools, Clinch County Schools, Cook County Schools, and Early County Schools to help provide meals to children affected by school closures. Please click on the links or contact the school systems directly for more information.
We are planning mobile food distributions in the future, and we will release that information as it becomes available. If you need help in the meantime, you can utilize our Pantry Finder HERE. We recommend that you call prior to visiting just in case hours have changed.
If you want to help others, you can go HERE to make a donation. We need financial contributions like yours to help us offset the costs of responding to these extraordinary circumstances.
If you would like to volunteer, go HERE for more information.