One of the challenges facing Athens residents with food insecurity during the pandemic was the lack of a directory listing locations and requirements for recipients.
Thanks to a website created and operated by the University of Georgia, residents now have direct access to information about dozens of food distribution sites throughout Athens every month.
The Community Food Resources database for Athens-Clarke County is housed on Engage Georgia, a platform the UGA Office of Service-Learning launched for local volunteer opportunities. The site lists the food distribution sites available each day, their addresses, the kind of meal or food offered, and any requirements for recipients.
One Monday a month, employees with Terrapin Beer Company pack bags filled with grocery items at the company’s north Athens facility to hand out to residents who meet income eligibility for the free food.
On that same day, Chuck’s Fish and Five restaurants downtown were serving a hot meal and canned goods at Sparrow’s Nest Christian ministry center, and the Salvation Army was handing out boxed cold meals.
The database and website had been needed for some time, said Josh Podvin, assistant director for community partnerships at the Office of Service-Learning, which reports to the vice presidents for Public Service and Outreach, and Instruction.
Previously, individual agencies and organizations were printing lists of their dates and offerings, but those could change as fast as new lists were printed and they were all individual—no one had a comprehensive list.
“The more that we can continue to let people know that there’s a central place to find out about distributions, we’re going to try and continue to do that,” Podvin said.
For May, the website listed 108 individual food distributions.
Organizations have begun to collaborate more since the website was launched, said Patrick Howard, coordinator of Our Daily Bread Community Kitchen, based at Athens First Baptist Church.
“Even though Athens is small, and it has these indexes full of different organizations, a lot of them don’t collaborate with each other and a lot more can be done if they did. A whole lot,” Howard said. “That’s what I like about what UGA is doing because that’s what collaboration looks like. You just click a button and see everybody who is serving food.”
Athens-Clarke County officials approved funding for the project through Athens Eats Together, a program that began during the pandemic that served 10,000 residents from September 2021 to April 2021. Students in UGA geography professor Hilda Kurtz’s class gathered information on the local food sharing sites, and the website went live in March 2021. Student workers with OSL update the site monthly and send it by email to more than 300 community partners.
“When we as a community look back at our time during COVID I think it’s something our community should be really proud of,” said Eve Anthony, president and CEO of the Athens Community Council on Aging.
The Community Food resources directory can be found at https://uga.givepulse.com/group/396610-community-food-resources-athens-clarke-county