Frank Richards, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of South Georgia, said the new commercial kitchen to be installed at the Albany branch will be capable of making up to 5,000 meals every four hours. Completion of the facility is expected in September.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Second Harvest Food Bank of South Georgia, Albany Branch is adding a new kitchen that, when fully installed, will have the capacity to create up to 5,000 simple but nutritious meals every four hours, according to Second Harvest CEO Frank Richards.
Currently, the food bank's meals for children program, Kids Cafe, cooks in the kitchen of a local church. That arrangement limits output to around 1,400 meals during the summer and 650 evening meals during the school year, Richards said.
By the end of the year, the new $200,000 commercial kitchen should allow the food bank to more than double that output. In fact, meal-making capability could top out at close to 5,000 daily meals during the school year.
According to Richards, IQF's, or instant quick food meals like frozen hot dogs, hamburger patties or chicken nuggets, will be added to fresh fruit or vegetables and milk.
"They're frozen," Richards said. "All we have to do is sheet them, put them in the ovens, heat them, bring them to temperature and ship them on our trucks."
Second Harvest delivers its hot meals to eight centers within a nine-county area, Richards said, including Boys & Girls Clubs and some schools. With news of the upcoming commercial kitchen, 10 or more communities in Southwest Georgia have expressed interest in the program, which Richards says is clearly in the national interest.
"A lot of people forget that one of the reasons for food stamps is that people were showing up for military service so malnourished they couldn't serve," Richards said. "So (the government) tried to get individuals back to a healthy state so they could serve their country. The ultimate goal in our country is to raise healthy and productive children who can serve in times of need."
Richards also said that eating habits are formed at a very young age, and as a nation we struggle with issues such as obesity and diabetes that place a financial burden on our indigent health care system.
"If families are not taught to provide proper types of food for their families, such as fresh vegetables and proteins, the kids are going to grow up unhealthy," Richards said.
According to Richards, the new farm bill, being debated now in Congress, contains proposed reductions in food stamps. If that should happen, more people will turn to charitable food sources such at The Lord's Pantry and others.
"It would be nice today if all similar federal programs were reduced and people could just walk into an employment situation. But that's not going to happen," Richards said. "In Georgia, you have a 9.8 percent unemployment rate. You have a 50-plus percent poverty rate in some area with children and adults."
Richards said the mission of organizations such as Second Harvest is made possible by help from the city of Albany and the community at large, as well as assistance from corporate sponsors. With about $75,000 still needed to help equip the kitchen, the organization is open to further help. Those who would like to volunteer at Food Bank of South Georgia/Albany or make a donation can contact the organization at (229) 244-2678 or visit the www.feedingsga.org website.