Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens told a group of attorneys Tuesday that one of the reasons why the Georgia Legal Food Frenzy began last year was because he was tired of hearing lawyer jokes.
Olens wants the profession to be known for doing good things for their communities rather than being a punch line.
The effort produced some pretty serious results last year: 612,000 pounds of food during the first Frenzy.
The goal this year is 750,000 pounds, he told those in attendance at the Middle Georgia Food Bank. But I wont be upset if we beat that.
The program, which runs April 22 to May 3, is based on a similar one started eight years ago by attorneys in Virginia, Olens said. That program has grown steadily, with Virginia attorneys collecting about 2 million pounds of food last year.
We need to beat them, Olens said.
Olens said the program already has shown signs of growth, with more lawyers and firms from more Georgia cities signing up for the challenge. Each firm is awarded points for the number of pounds of food it collects, with the top firms in various categories -- including small, medium and large firms; judges; and district attorneys offices -- getting a trophy they keep until the next year.
Originally, Olens was going to limit the competition to those already practicing law, but students from Mercer Universitys Walter F. George School of Law persisted in convincing Olens to create a law school division, with five law schools in Georgia.
Mercer ended up winning that trophy, collecting more food -- more than 4,400 pounds -- than the other four law schools combined.
Its a tremendous project for Georgia and Middle Georgia, said Mary Donovan, dean of students at Mercers law school. Mercer students are enthusiastically preparing to win again.
All the food and money thats collected benefit the food bank in their area. Ronald Raleigh, director of the Middle Georgia Food Bank, said lawyers in the 24 counties he serves collected about 10,000 pounds of food and raised $3,000.
Ill take it as it comes, Raleigh said. Id love to see us do (15,000) to 20,000 pounds and double the money. Thats a fairly good goal.
Raleigh said the food bank also will benefit from the publicity when the lawyers start collecting, which he hopes will lead to members of the nonlegal community making direct money and food donations to the food bank.
Three thousand pounds of canned goods means 4,000 meals, Raleigh said.
Last year, the food bank used about 8.6 million pounds of food, serving about 267,000 people across the 24-county region, including the elderly, disabled, homeless and others.
Children are a key demographic for the food bank: About 67 percent of the children in this region qualify for free or reduced lunches, Raleigh said.
Thats above the state average of about 60 percent, Olens said.
We can use the extra food to help kids in the summer (when they are out of school), Olens said, adding that the food bank wants to collect proteins such as peanut butter, cheese and tuna -- not junk food.
Olens said he hopes the Georgia Legal Food Frenzy will continue to attract participants and attention.
Its a great way to show that lawyers do good stuff in addition to suing people, he said with a chuckle.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.