Jim Case, branch director of Second Harvest of South Georgia in Albany, said the food bank is suffering reduced food donations through the holidays and could reach a point where those in need are going hungry. Case urges residents to take some time from planning their own holiday meals and donate food or money.
ALBANY, Ga. — A major provider of free food for area needy is barely keeping pace these days, according to Jim Case, branch director of Second Harvest of South Georgia.
He believes one reason is that people are busy planning for the holidays.
"It seems ironic," Case said, "that at the time of year when many Americans are thinking of their own large family feasts, more and more citizens don't have enough food to make it through a week. If it weren't for the National Association of Letter Carriers collecting more than 80,000 pounds of food in the 10 counties we serve, We wouldn't have made it through Thanksgiving."
The food bank's Albany branch on Clark Avenue serves Dougherty and nine nearby counties. In seven of those counties, the poverty rate is 25 percent or greater, Case said.
Combined branches of Second Harvest of Southwest Georgia serve 30 counties, providing more than 14 million pounds of food each year to needy children, the elderly and low-income working families. It's all made possible by corporations, small businesses and individuals contributing food or money.
Food is distributed by a network of more than 500 south Georgia member charities. For whatever reasons, contributions are down 10-15 percent this year. Case says the need for so much food comes mostly from the down economy.
"The Cooper plant is gone," Case said. "Not just closed, but gone. Jobs are hard to come by. Some people think the obvious answer is to just find work. If you have a job today, you're fortunate. But chances are you're still struggling."
Case is no stranger to hard times, losing a leg to an accident and infection a few years back. He couldn't work and he and his wife were forced to rely upon the kindness of others.
"If it hadn't been for friends, family and church, we never could have made it," Case said. "These people aren't getting what they want. They're getting what we have and hoping it's what they need."
Case believes that some are suspicious of abuse in a system of vast warehouses and extensive distribution sources. He's constantly reassuring his donors, individual or corporate, of the need for food and the efficiency of the operation. He says 96 cents of every dollar goes toward buying or providing food for those who need it. Much of what's in the warehouse is good, nutritious and "rescued" — just on the verge of spoilage dates.
Case urges the community to donate either money or food, especially through the holidays, but also after. Even more, he suggests consideration of a food drive sponsored by small business or church groups. Boxes and set-up are provided, he said, and could make a world of difference to someone in a difficult situation. To donate or for information on Second Harvest of South Georgia, go to www.feedingsga.org.