Thousands of economically challenged Atlanta residents will be eating better thanks to donations from the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit International Convention & Exposition at the Georgia World Congress Center on October 17. More than 316,000 pounds of surplus produce from the exposition went to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, which is one of 200 in the Feeding America food bank network.
“A donation of this size and quality is very important to us,” said Bill Bolling, founder and executive director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank. “One of our goals is to increase the amount of fresh produce we’re able to provide to our partner agencies and those who have a hard time accessing it, so we are truly grateful to PMA and the vendors for offering this excess to us.”
The Food Bank spent months planning the logistics for gathering and distributing the produce to 140 of their partner agencies and sharing it with three other Georgia food banks. It took an entire fleet of trucks and more than 200 volunteers to pick up the produce and get it distributed to the agencies that will provide the food to people in need this week.
As the economy has struggled, the Food Bank’s partner agencies have reported an unprecedented increase in the number of families coming to them for help. Distribution numbers at the Food Bank certainly confirm that. This past fiscal year, which ended in June 2011, the Food Bank distributed 34% more food and grocery products to its partner agencies than in the prior fiscal year.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are especially prized as the entire Feeding America food bank network is focusing more on acquiring more fresh-food donations. Bolling said this donation is a perfect example of the role the food industry can play to ensure people in need are receiving healthy food. “This gives our agencies an opportunity to handle the best of the best in fruits and vegetables,” Bolling said. “The key for us is that it isn’t just about how many pounds of food we can get out, but the type of food and whether or not it is healthy. With this donation, we know a lot of people will be enjoying foods they don’t often get a chance to try.”
Each year PMA’s exhibitors donate produce from the trade show to local food banks. PMA has donated to The Atlanta Community Food Bank each time Fresh Summit has been held in Atlanta. “Our members are very much aware of the important role they play in feeding the hungry in Fresh Summit host cities,” said Bryan Silbermann, PMA president and CEO. “They bring the highest quality produce they have to display at the show and are careful not to give it all out to attendees at the end, knowing that there are trucks waiting to distribute it in the area. This is part of our collective corporate responsibility and our mission to do our part in sharing our healthy, flavorful product with those in need.”