ATLANTA — Atlanta’s growing suburbs have seen the greatest growth in poverty over the past six years, but many of the people who need help are employed, the head of a non-profit community food bank said.
“Half the people coming in have a job. And, they’re usually working on hospitality, retail or healthcare,” Bill Bolling, founder and executive director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB), told members of the Buckhead Business Association (BBA).
“That’s a systems issue. You can’t go after a particular employer and say, ‘you’re a bad employer’ because that’s what the market is,” Bolling added. “But, we’ve created a class system where a lot of people working every day are working two or three jobs, part time jobs, still have to go down to the congregation to get food to feed their family. … There’s kind of systemically something wrong there.”
Founded in 1979, the ACFB distributes more than 45 million pounds of food and grocery products annually through a network of 600 local and regional partner nonprofit organizations in 29 counties in North Georgia. The organization relies on more than 20,000 volunteers to help with its operations.
The country as a whole throws away 30 percent of what we grow and package, Bolling said. Early in his career, he learned that he needed to position himself and his mission to help feed the hungry as a solution to the businesses he was asking to help with his mission.
“I think we have a choice every day. We can focus on the negative … or we can focus on the things that bring us together, where we find unity, common purpose, a sense of purpose in our life,” Bolling said. “And, anything that can make us be our best self is a good thing to be associated with”