Though feeding the hungry often comes to the forefront during the holidays, providing food for needy families in Fort Valley is a year-round job.
The Grace House Community Food Bank supplies food for 500 families throughout the year, and to help fill this need the organization is having its fourth annual Tons of Love campaign.
For $200, food bank Director Craig McKinney said he can buy a ton of food from the Middle Georgia Community Food Bank at 10 cents a pound.
“A ton of food feeds 60 families for about a week,” McKinney said.
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So far, proceeds from the campaign, which started in November, have donated an equivalent of 41 tons of food. That is short of the estimated 200 tons the program will need to supply food throughout the year.
“Pretty much we don’t turn anyone down,” McKinney said, though applications are required.
The food bank also provides hams or turkeys to families at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
This year, it provided 500 people with the centerpiece for their Thanksgiving meal. The Grace House will do the same thing again at Christmas.
Eight different inner-city churches collaborate to provide funds and non-perishable items to The Grace House.
“We come together interdenominationally, interracially,” McKinney said. “It is an awesome thing when people can put aside their differences for a cause.”
Joyce Scott has been volunteering since the house opened in 2005 when the program was only able to give each family four cans of food a month.
“When I started, we fed 20 families a month,” Scott said.
McKinney remembered a time when Blue Bird Corp. had layoffs, and he had a man come in to ask for help.
“He told me, ‘I have worked my whole life. I’ve never dreamed I’d be at a food bank,’ ’’ McKinney said.
The reality is that many people are just three or four paychecks away from having to ask for assistance from a food bank, McKinney said.
“It is a hard thing to come and ask for help,” he said.
The food bank, which is open Tuesday and Thursday, sometimes has a dozen people waiting for food outside its 203 Central Ave. location.
Depending on family size, the food bank provides items such as canned beans, corn, spaghetti sauce and other types of canned goods. The Grace House also gives bags of chips, canned milk and breakfast bars, depending on how much it receives in donations.
“We are just trying to get people further down the road. The food is secondary. I’ll pray with anyone who walks in the door because people are hurting,” McKinney said.