As Director of the Community Kitchen at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church downtown, Bill Bolling saw the need to move beyond what one church and program could provide. He promised to secure enough food if other organizations would join him in the work, and the Atlanta Community Food Bank was born. In its first year, the Food Bank distributed 15,279 pounds of food to 25 partnering organizations.
Movin’ on up! The Food Bank relocated from the basement of St. Luke’s to its first warehouse on Whitehall Street, which facilitated the distribution of more than two million pounds of food. The new space provided room to grow, but not for long.
In 1984, The Food Bank moved to the facility at 970 Jefferson Street. Over the next 20 years, the former Anheuser-Busch warehouse was our central hub for the distribution of millions of pounds of food and grocery products to hundreds of agencies serving the hungry across metro Atlanta.
The annual Hunger Walk, now the Hunger Walk Run, was born as a small grassroots project. The walk took its first steps with approximately 1,000 participants of every race, age, gender and religion sharing a core belief that no one should go without such a basic need as food.
The Food Bank’s prepared and perishable food rescue project, Atlanta’s Table, hit the ground running with strong support from Atlanta’s hospitality community. Food was picked up at participating restaurants, hotels and caterers, then delivered to partner agencies serving hot meals for the hungry. As one of the first of its kind in the country, it served as a model for many other cities.
On January 21, 1992, the Food Bank hit a big milestone, distributing its 50 millionth pound of food since opening in 1979 to partner agency Rainbow Pantry of Royston, Georgia.
The Food Bank’s Hunger 101 project got underway with the goal to raise awareness about hunger and poverty on local and national levels through interactive workshops, shared curricula and other creative tools. Thousands of people of all ages have participated through their schools, corporations, civic groups and congregations.
The Food Bank’s Community Gardens project took root, helping to establish and maintain gardens in communities across metro Atlanta. By providing everything from seeds to volunteers, the Food Bank empowered neighbors to help neighbors—growing not only food to share, but also growing their communities.
Atlanta hosted the Olympic Games, and the Food Bank’s “Summer Harvest” Food Recovery collected hundreds of thousands of pounds of excess prepared food from Olympic venues. Throughout the duration of the Games, food was delivered daily to Food Bank partner agencies.
The Food Bank’s Kids In Need project had its unlikely beginnings when the School, Home and Office Product Association show came to town. The Food Bank rescued tractor-truckloads of product after the close of the show and thousands of low-income students began receiving brand new school supplies through the Food Bank’s free store for educators.
The Food Bank’s first-ever capital campaign to build a new facility began. The goals for the new building were many: an expanded warehouse, energy efficiency, space to host community meetings and much more. Ultimately, the campaign aimed to empower the Food Bank to better serve its partners in hunger relief so that more people would have access to enough food for a healthy life.
Construction at 732 Joseph E. Lowery was completed and the Food Bank moved into its new home in December of 2004! The new 129,000 sq. ft. building was one of the first LEED certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) food banks in the country. With more warehouse space and docks, as well as brand new operational systems, the Food Bank was equipped to step into the future.
The Food Bank’s Atlanta Prosperity Campaign (APC) was launched to connect working families across metro Atlanta to economic support systems through benefit screening and application assistance services. During its first six years, APC would also lead the growth of metro Atlanta’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, offering free tax preparation to qualifying families.
In an effort to provide more food for the growing numbers of people in need, the Food Bank made capacity-building for our partner agencies a focal point of the 2010 Strategic Plan. By 2013, with support from a major foundation, the Food Bank began distributing capacity grants. The first round of grant recipients generated 35% growth in distribution, soundly surpassing the 10% increase goal established.
With support from more than 15,000 volunteers, a staff of 130 and thousands of food and fund donors, the Food Bank’s distribution surpassed 45 million pounds of food and grocery products in just one year. From 2009-2013, largely in response to the growing need during our country’s economic crisis, distribution increased by 125%.
As the Food Bank moves forward, nutrition and wellness are key priorities. We are not only securing more healthy food items for distribution to our partner agencies, but we are also participating in community initiatives and collaborations to generate greater awareness about nutritious options and to make those options affordable and accessible.
After 36 years of running the Food Bank, founder Bill Bolling retired, handing the reins to Kyle Waide, the Food Bank Vice President of Partner Operations.
The Food Bank unveiled its new strategic plan with a bold goal that all hungry people across Greater Atlanta and North Georgia will have access to the nutritious meals they need when they need them. In addition, the Food Bank got a new look to reflect the future and focus on healthy food.