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Posted: May 15, 2014 6:21 p.m.

Walmart grant provides produce to Georgians in need

One of the most well-known and widespread one-stop stores is helping provide fresh produce to food-insecure Georgians.

The Walmart Foundation’s State Giving Program awarded the Georgia Food Bank Association (GFBA) a $100,000 grant to further the efforts of its “Farm to Food Bank” program in an aim to increase distribution of fruit and vegetables throughout the state’s food bank network.

The “Farm to Food Bank” program serves all 159 Georgia counties by sourcing tractor-trailer loads of fresh produce from local farmers to be transported to regional food banks who stock their local and mobile pantries with Georgia-grown food for families in need.

“Fresh produce is the last untapped source of donated food for the food bank network,” said Danah Craft, GFBA executive director. “Georgia’s rich agricultural resources and long growing season provide a great opportunity to source healthy foods throughout our state. Georgia farmers are very generous, and we are grateful for their support.”

There are seven regional food banks in Georgia – Newton County is served by the Atlanta Community Food Bank – that distribute food through a network of 2,300 partner agencies and pantries. More than 1.8 million Georgians, including 702,000 children, rely on this network. In 2013, food banks provided more than 103 million pounds of food to these residents, including 17 million pounds of fresh produce.

Georgia’s 18.9 percent food insecurity rate is the fourth highest in the country, according to GFBA. At the same time, the statewide obesity rate is almost 30 percent.

“Hunger and obesity go hand-in-hand in a state where more than one in four children live in food-insecure households and nutritious foods are either not available or too expensive for their families,” Craft said. “By distributing more produce through the GFBA network, we are increasing the nutritional mix of food being provided for hunger relief as fresh produce is often unavailable in areas with food deserts.”

Walmart funds will be used to pay growers for packing supplies and materials, defraying out-of-pocket costs that may otherwise hinder their ability to donate produce from their farms. The grant will also support transportation of the produce from farms to the food banks.

GFBA hopes to distribute between 625,000 to 880,000 pounds of produce with this funding.

Regional food banks across the state increased the total amount of food distributed from 70 million pounds in 2010 to 103 million pounds in 2013, according to GFBA. Forty-four percent of Georgians seeking food assistance are not eligible for food programs like SNAP (formerly called food stamps).

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