Food insecurity becomes more prominent during holiday season


Yei Bin Andrews

Helping the hungry: Sophomore Will Charlop donates food for the Grady Food Bank Club’s food drive. Dry goods and non-perishable items are accepted for the drive.

During the holiday season, thoughts of meals like turkey and mashed potatoes float through children and adults’ minds. However, a great number of Atlantans face food insecurity and don’t have access to the holiday meals that many anticipate every year.

Lauren Waits, government affairs director at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, defines food insecurity as not always knowing where a next meal will come from. Food insecurity takes a toll on families, she said.

“If students are living in homes where they’re not sure where their next meal will come from, that imposes a huge amount of stress on the family and the students themselves,” Waits said. “Studies show that if students don’t get enough to eat, they can’t pay attention in class, as well, and students aren’t able to perform their best.”

According to the Atlanta food bank, an estimated 14.6 percent of Greater Atlanta residents are food insecure. During the holiday season, many Atlantans dedicate their time to volunteer at the food bank.

“We’re always grateful for the help that people give us at the holiday time, but we would love to find a way to stretch that help out to have this support throughout the entire year,” Waits said.

One of the food bank’s programs includes giving free meals to kids in the summer who received free or reduced-cost lunch at school. By providing meals to children, the food bank attempts to provide a place of security and comfort.

“The most important job a kid has is to go to school and do well at school so they can keep growing and learning,” Waits said.

Students are playing a part to reduce food insecurity through the Grady Food Bank Club.

Special education teacher Elizabeth Washam is the club sponsor and is new to Atlanta and Grady this year. She thought sponsoring the club would be a way to directly impact the community.

“I think food insecurity affects more people than we know here in the Grady community,” Washam said. “I believe that there are students in this school who have experienced it, but more importantly, I think that this is an issue that our community can rally behind together.”

The Grady Food Bank Club has worked with the Atlanta food bank. They share a common goal of fighting food insecurity and hunger.

“This club has worked with the food bank to box food, participate in several community outreach events and are currently hosting a food drive here at Grady for the food bank in preparation for the holidays,” Washam said.

Students are helping fight hunger in other ways.

Sophomore Gigi Fisher started volunteering at the food pantry with her church and never stopped going. She tries to keep Saturday mornings open to help feed the hungry. Fisher has seen the faces of food insecurity and said she learned what it truly is.

“I would really like it if people knew how common it actually is,” Fisher said. “I feel as though there are people at Grady who are food-insecure and understand, but there is also a large population who don’t know. and therefore, see it as beneath them. I just want people to know that it’s so much more common than you might think.”

Waits, Washam and Fisher agree that relieving Atlantans of food insecurity is an important goal.

“I think the most rewarding part is the fact that over time you actually get to know the people and what their lives are like,” Fisher said. “Sometimes people can become a little hostile when they’re hungry, which just makes the people who are truly grateful even better.”