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Bulloch Food Bank working to provide food to needy families

     In the season of Thanksgiving, the Bulloch County Food Bank is working to make sure everyone who needs food will have it for the holidays.
    According to Joe Bill Brannon, the self-professed official gopher ("go for" this, "go for" that), there is always a need for fresh or non-perishable items.
    "Right now, we're looking for fresh meat. There's always a need for that," said Brannon. "We try to put some in every box that goes out."
    In addition, the food bank is currently short on the following items: cereal, grits, powdered milk, macaroni and cheese, tomatoes, baked beans and all kinds of soup.    
    The Statesboro Food Bank serves an average of 180 families in a given month, having distributed around 11,000 pounds of food in October. Each box of supplies given to a "customer" contains a six-day supply of food, using the government food pyramid as a guideline. The food bank also has a senior "brown bag" program, designed to "supplement the pantry" of needy senior citizens once per quarter.
    Brannon stressed that this is an "emergency food bank," with families being eligible to receive a week's worth of food up to three times a year. Under special circumstances, a fourth week can be authorized, with the approval of the bank's board.
    The operation runs on a paltry annual budget of $32,000. This pays for the manager – who opens the shop daily – the utilities and even purchases of discounted wholesale foods. The city provides the building for $1 rent per month. The United Way is the largest cash contributor, with local churches and individuals making up the balance.
    Brannon said the food bank is the most cost effective agency in the local United Way, largely run by the six or seven volunteers that show up per day from various organizations.
    "We serve the most people for the least amount of money," said Brannon. "It's a combination of things - we've got volunteers,  we watch everything, we don't blow a lot of money."
    Individuals or groups who wish to donate food, can bring by their donation by food bank during office hours - Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. - or they can call 489-FOOD(3663) to have Mr. Brannon come by and pick up the donations with his truck.
    Effie Burns, the manager/ paid volunteer, described the different groups who typically donate food stuffs to the bank.
    "Churches, the college, college students, school can drives and a lot of people individually," said Burns. "This one little old man brought in three turkeys and the potatoes, the green beans, stuffing mix and even a cake - everything to go with their turkey dinner. Some people go all out to see that everyone's happy for thanksgiving. He does it every year and he's close to 80."
    She said they would find families with particularly special needs or dire circumstances to get the complete meals.
    Brannon said that people don't realize 30 percent of Bulloch County households are under the poverty line and that there's a problem in the state. While no one is facing starvation, he said there are many Bulloch residents and children with malnutrition.
    "Most of the people we serve are the working poor. It's extremely hard for people to get by - to make a living - and most of them live from payday to payday," said Brannon. "Many families we see have a kid that has to go to the doctor and they spend their food money on the doctor visit or the medicine."
    "It's a crying shame, really, that a country as affluent as ours – the way we waste money and the stuff we throw away – for an American kid to go to bed hungry."

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