Providing Food and Jobs for Atlanta Residents During the Pandemic

Posted November 2, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
CARE staff working on providing food for residents

Over the past sev­er­al months, thou­sands of Atlantans have found them­selves strug­gling to afford gro­ceries after the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic put them out of work. At the same time, many church­es, food pantries and relief orga­ni­za­tions have faced dif­fi­cul­ties keep­ing up with requests for food and have seen a dip in vol­un­teers — as many peo­ple have stayed home to avoid poten­tial expo­sure to the nov­el coronavirus.

The Atlanta-based human­i­tar­i­an orga­ni­za­tion, CARE, has worked to help address each of these issues. Since April, the non­prof­it has part­nered with com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions, the Atlanta school sys­tem and tech com­pa­nies such as TaskRab­bit to pro­vide gro­ceries to those in need and con­nect Atlanta-area res­i­dents to jobs sup­port­ing food-relief efforts. Those jobs have includ­ed tasks like pick­ing up gro­ceries from super­mar­kets for food pantries; pack­ing and sort­ing items; and deliv­er­ing food pack­ages to res­i­dents’ homes.

So far, CARE and its part­ners have pur­chased and pro­vid­ed rough­ly 450,000 meals to Atlanta-area res­i­dents who were impact­ed by the coro­n­avirus out­break, and some $250,000 in income has been gen­er­at­ed for local peo­ple assist­ing the relief efforts.

CARE has launched sim­i­lar efforts in Akron, Ohio; Hous­ton, Texas; Louisville, Ken­tucky; cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia and the Bay Area. In those areas, thou­sands of meals have also been pro­vid­ed and tens of thou­sands of dol­lars in income for res­i­dents has been gen­er­at­ed, too.

We under­stand that this effort is only part of what’s nec­es­sary to address the income loss and hunger needs that have been cre­at­ed by the pan­dem­ic,” says Ryan Shep­ard, exec­u­tive direc­tor of CARE’s Glob­al Inno­va­tion Hub, which runs the food and jobs pro­gram. Still, we’re glad to see this ini­tia­tive has helped res­i­dents access gro­ceries that they des­per­ate­ly need and has helped peo­ple gain much-need­ed income.”

Pro­vid­ing jobs

Ini­tial­ly, CARE’s food pro­gram in Atlanta — which is sup­port­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion and var­i­ous oth­er fun­ders — most­ly con­nect­ed res­i­dents to jobs through gig-work apps like TaskRab­bit. Through these apps, com­mu­ni­ty part­ner orga­ni­za­tions pro­vid­ing food assis­tance in part­ner­ship with CARE could find local peo­ple who need­ed work and could help with operations.

As more com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions and fun­ders got involved, part­ners start­ed hir­ing local peo­ple direct­ly to work sev­er­al hours a week mak­ing deliv­er­ies and assist­ing in oth­er ways. Com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions have pri­or­i­tized hir­ing local peo­ple who know the neigh­bor­hoods well and can help iden­ti­fy spe­cif­ic needs,” says Mar­cus Sabbs, a con­sul­tant in Atlanta who is help­ing run the food pro­gram with CARE. These work­ers know the peo­ple who live in these com­mu­ni­ties and under­stand who needs the most help.”

These non­prof­its have also intro­duced prac­tices to ensure that oth­er needs are being met. For instance, res­i­dents hired by local non­prof­it CHRIS 180 — which is help­ing to dis­trib­ute food in part­ner­ship with CARE — have per­formed well­ness checks when they make gro­cery deliv­er­ies to homes. Dur­ing the checks, res­i­dents are asked about their health and oth­er needs and are referred to ser­vices. We’re able to learn more about people’s sit­u­a­tions and what they need beyond just food,” Sabbs says.

Assist­ing immi­grant and refugee communities

With Casey sup­port, CARE also recent­ly part­nered with the Atlanta-based Lati­no Com­mu­ni­ty Fund in its efforts to pro­vide food and oth­er gro­ceries to fam­i­lies in immi­grant and refugee com­mu­ni­ties — par­tic­u­lar­ly those with house­hold mem­bers who have lim­it­ed Eng­lish skills, are undoc­u­ment­ed or work in jobs deemed essen­tial dur­ing the pandemic.

The fam­i­lies we serve through a net­work of part­ners and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers are often over­looked by large non­prof­its and estab­lished food dis­tri­b­u­tion sys­tems that don’t have con­nec­tions to these com­mu­ni­ties,” says Gil­da Pedraza, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Lati­no Com­mu­ni­ty Fund. We think it’s vital that orga­ni­za­tions under­stand these com­mu­ni­ties’ needs and have the lan­guage skills to serve them dur­ing this dif­fi­cult time.”

Since March, the Lati­no Com­mu­ni­ty Fund and its part­ners have served over 12,000 fam­i­lies with gro­cery box­es that include cul­tur­al­ly appro­pri­ate items — such as rice, beans and tor­tillas — for the pri­mar­i­ly His­pan­ic fam­i­lies it serves.

We’re glad to part­ner with CARE and its net­work of providers to deliv­er food to com­mu­ni­ties and ensure that res­i­dents have oppor­tu­ni­ties to stay con­nect­ed to the work­force,” says Eri­ka Smith, a senior asso­ciate with the Casey Foun­da­tion. These efforts have helped those in need while also pro­vid­ing res­i­dents with ways to serve their com­mu­ni­ties dur­ing this dif­fi­cult time.”

Learn about ways to help low-income work­ers dur­ing uncer­tain times

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