FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. —Meals by Grace has provided tens of thousands of meals in recent weeks, but the organization still faces an increased demand while supplies dwindle.  

From March 13 to May 8, Meals by Grace provided more than 60,000 meals to around 6,000 children and their families, but there is a grim outlook for securing enough food to continue that rate.

“Food banks are at their worst, not even providing 20 percent of what we need — mainly shelf-stable food,” the nonprofit’s Executive Director Suellen Daniels said.

With limited supplies at food banks, the organization is now having to turn to buying food at retail cost, which requires more funds for fewer supplies.

“We’ve no option left, given the amount of food we need to feed the numbers of those in need, but to begin purchasing what we can find, retail,” Daniels said. “At this point, it’s a toss up between desperately needing food and dollars with which to have on hand to make quick purchases when we do find something. Supplies in stores are ‘iffy,’ and none are yet fully and sufficiently stocked, either.”

Daniels said Dollar Tree appears to be the most affordable options for her organization’s needs.

“Some community folks shop regularly at Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s and bring us bulk stuff, but if we’re buying, we have to find the cheapest sources, and Dollar Tree seems to be it,” Daniels said.

Prior to the increased demand on food banks brought on by the pandemic, Daniels said she could order 100 boxes of frozen meat and 100 boxes of mixed canned goods every week at a cost of 16 cents per pound, far less than retail prices, from the Georgia Mountain Food Bank.

It is not just higher prices that are creating the problem, though.

“Our orders with [Georgia Mountain Food Bank] have been limited by a lack of supply to maybe 25 percent of normal,” Daniels said. “Even that amount is not always available. Last week we were finally able to get a few boxes of miscellaneous canned goods. Some weeks we could only pick up eggs.”

When food can be sourced, storage space can be an issue. Daniels said Atlanta Community Food Bank’s inventory mostly offers frozen bulk food and a minimum order of 1,200 pounds. That amount requires more freezer space than Meals by Grace can accommodate. Also, thawing, then distributing some of the food and refreezing the rest presents health hazards.

The end of the school year will also mark the end of some school-provided meals that have been distributed at bus stops in the area.

“What this means is the families who were able to access even that little bit of extra food will now no longer have that and will have to seek additional sources like Meals by Grace to provide for their children’s basic needs,” Daniels said.

Meals by Grace still has restaurant and distributor partners who provide what they can, she said, and that food goes out the door a soon as it arrives. The organization is “eagerly awaiting” a potential gift of boxed meals from the USDA through its Lion’s Club partner, which will be delivered and distributed in the same day.

A bright spot for the upcoming weeks is the anticipation of receiving $25,000 in donated funds raised by Alpharetta Rotary’s Donation Derby event held earlier this month.

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