Providing Food and Jobs for Atlanta Residents During the Pandemic

Posted November 2, 2020
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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