The Food Bank of Northeast Georgia was founded in 1992 in Athens, Georgia, in an effort to end hunger in northeast Georgia. The Food Bank has recently expanded its reach further north. In June 2015, construction began on a warehouse and food processing center located in downtown Clayton, in Rabun County. The $6.4 million project ($2 million of which is going to expansion of the Athens facility) is funded by a combination of foundation grants, corporate and individual donations and federal grants. The projected completion date is late December 2015. Clayton was chosen as the site for the project because northeast Georgia has a large population of residents living under the poverty line. As a result, many students in the area receive free or reduced lunch at school.
Once complete, the Food Hub will include a production facility, a machine that will flash freeze produce, a commercial kitchen, a teaching kitchen and a food distribution center. Through the addition of the Food Hub, the Food Bank aims to alleviate hunger and foster economic growth in northeast Georgia. The Food Hub will also serve as a small business incubator by providing local food businesses a space and equipment to produce a marketable, value-added food product.
(FoodHub teaching kitchen model.)
Farmers will also have the option to pay a small fee to have their products frozen and stored so they can have a longer shelf life and be distributed further. There is also the possibility for the local public to pay a minimal fee to do small scale canning projects. The Food Hub is also providing technical assistance to local farmers by offering small farm business planning as well as farm and food safety trainings.
When the Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) system is up and running, it will have the ability to freeze 2,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables per hour. Food will then be redistributed across the region through partnering agencies. The Food Hub plans to hire 30 full-time employees over a three year time frame.
Northeast Georgia Farm to School and the two FoodCorps service members with be housed in the Food Hub offices. We are eagerly awaiting the many opportunities to deepen connections between the region’s farms and schools in the new Food Hub and in the new year!