By JODI BRANNON
Statesboro Food Bank
As the current operations director for The Food Bank, Inc., I was notified by a Statesboro Herald reporter on March 15 that our current location had been sold and will be demolished for the construction of a new senior living facility.
Even though we knew the old Julia P. Bryant School was considered temporary, the unexpected news was jarring. The Board of Directors and I are grateful to the Board of Education for allowing us to operate from the old school for the past 7 years. Where do we go from here?
On the heels of what has been our hardest yet most impactful year ever, our future feels uncertain. The phone has been ringing nonstop. Our supporters and clients have been asking, “When and where are you moving?” “Are you going to be closed?” I cannot lie, after this exhausting exercise in perseverance over the past year, I wonder if I personally have the energy to assist our Board as we face this new challenge.
Many of you knew my father, Joe Bill Brannon. Sadly, he passed away this past summer during the most exhausting and stressful time of the pandemic. He had an unrelenting passion for making sure that no one would go to bed hungry with so many supportive people in the community. “Keep the Faith” was his mantra. We have endeavored to do so.
Since March 2020, the Food Bank could not close its doors. Bulloch County residents needed food more than ever and we served up to 800 clients a month with curbside delivery—approximately triple the pre-pandemic rate.
After some soul-searching, I knew my father would want me to continue to educate those who are unaware of who we are, what we do for the community, and how we do it. He would also tell me to give others a chance to receive a blessing, by doing what they can to help their neighbors.
Who we are
We are a private registered 501c3 charity overseen by a board of directors that serves Bulloch County by providing food resources. We are a United Way member agency and a member of Second Harvest of the Coastal Empire – which is part of Feeding America.
What we do / How we do it
We provide our citizens in need of emergency food resources with a 7-day supply, per family member, of groceries based on USDA nutritional requirements.
We operate on funds from United Way, monetary and food donations from organizations, businesses, churches, and private citizens. We are not a federal, state or city government organization and are not funded by government resources. We do apply for grants, when eligible, to further our mission to feed the hungry in Bulloch County. We have three part-time essential staff members that are modestly compensated: operations director, pantry manager, and operations assistant. We have relationships with area grocery stores and restaurants that require weekly pickups to supplement the nonperishable items with additional items such as fresh meat, bread, fruit and vegetables
Before the Pandemic. We use referral agencies who have knowledge of the needs of our citizens to refer clients to receive emergency food. The Department of Family and Children's Services who oversees the SNAP (Food Stamp) Program is our main referral agency as the process for applying and ultimately receiving funds for food can have lengthy wait times. Other referral agencies include the Red Cross, United Way, A.C.T.S. (Area Christians Together in Service), MyActionPact (formerly Concerted Services), Pineland Mental Health and Bulloch Wellness Center. We were regularly contacted by health agencies seeking help for their clients.
Over the Past Year. Due to Covid-19, most area agencies were not open to the public and referrals became difficult to obtain for our clients. Suspending our operations was considered in the early days, with the fear and uncertainty that came with the virus. But the need for food was even more prevalent due to furloughed workers and agency shutdowns, therefore our mission became more critical.
We decided to relax many restrictions for proof-of-eligibility and have been operating with call- in appointments and curbside pickups. We also severely limited our volunteers so there was a tremendous workload throughout the spring, summer and fall. United Way and Pineland/Bulloch Wellness were able to provide resources through deliveries of food from the Food Bank to homebound and vulnerable populations.
The difference in how we help
We are blessed to have other organizations that supplement food resources to our neighbors. Working together, we collectively made this past year easier for many without food. However, because we are an emergency food bank that uniquely supplies weekly food rations, our operations have often been the greatest source of consistent support for those who found themselves in need of food. We have distributed food Monday through Friday without fail throughout the entire past year during the pandemic and sometimes harsh weather conditions.
How you have helped
Over the past years, individuals, collegiate organizations, businesses, civic groups and churches have held food drives to help us offset our food costs. Many churches and individuals have understood the need for monetary donations so that we can pay our overhead and knowing that our 2nd Harvest membership allows us to procure needed food items inexpensively.
This past year, we have seen an influx of donations as people have reflected on the needs of our community during the pandemic. We have not had adequate time and staff to thank you individually but hope that you know we strive to use all the resources donated to wipe out hunger and better our neighbors' lives.
How you can help now
These next months will be a snapshot in time that will reflect how Bulloch County residents view our mission and, though it feels daunting for me personally, I believe we can do this together! Please help us spread the word, we need a new location. Please talk to family, friends and business associates and give us your ideas. We need continued financial support and eventually will need volunteers to help us move to a new location. Most of all, we need your prayers and encouragement to keep fighting the good fight to keep this vital community resource operational. “Keep the Faith!”
Jodi Brannon is operations director for the Food Bank, Inc.