Archived Story

Food bank helps keep county from going hungry

Published 10:27am Thursday, September 5, 2013

The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 14.5 percent of American households – or one out of every 6 – are food insecure.
In Tallapoosa County, that number is even higher. An estimated 19.6 percent of the county’s residents are food insecure. That means one out of every five households struggle to put enough food on the table.
That is where the Food Bank of East Alabama comes in. Executive director Martha Henk said her agency distributes 400,000 pounds of food per month, enough to fill 12 18-wheelers.
“What we do is look for churches and other nonprofits locally that have outreach, and then we partner with them to provide food that comes down from the National Food Bank Network and national suppliers as well,” Henk said.
The task can be daunting, as the agency serves a total of seven counties. The food bank is located in Auburn, and through their connection to Feeding America, they are able to purchase food cheaper than you may think.
“When we acquire food from the food bank network, it costs 6 cents a pound,” Henk said. “One dollar buys seven meals for us.”
Last year, the food bank distributed 658,284 pounds to 18 different agencies throughout Tallapoosa County.
“It is a lot of food,” Henk said. “Some people have this picture in their head that the food bank is a small building with a couple of cans on a shelf. We have a freezer large enough to hold three truckloads of frozen products.”
While many associate food banks with non-perishable items such as canned goods, Henk said the bank also aims to distribute fresh foods and vegetables.
“Last year, we distributed 852,000 pounds of fresh produce,” Henk said. “It’s not just about putting pounds but healthy food as well.”
This scale of food distribution wouldn’t be possible, Henk said, without the funding they receive from the United Way.
“The funding we get from the United Way has a tremendous impact into acquiring food that goes right back into the community,” Henk said.
But it isn’t just about funding.
“(Being a United Way agency) lets us network with their amazing network of agencies to help us reach more people,” Henk said. “We are very pleased to have that sort of connection as well.”