Atlanta, Georgia is a beautiful city and I was lucky enough to spend a week there through my Branch Out National alternative break, volunteering and learning about the issue of hunger on the national and international scale. Of all the places we visited the Georgia Avenue Food Co-op was the most inspirational. During our pre-trip orientation meetings, we learned about the problems with international food aid and the embarrassment associated with receiving low income food. This information became real to me on the trip.
The people associated with the food co-op were proud of their involvement with the co-op. They contribute $3 and their time and labor to the co-op and twice a month receive about $100-$150 of food. They have created a community among the co-op members, visiting each other at the hospital and banding together to help families when they lose a house or have other economic problems.
The organizer of the program over-sees all six co-ops but leads in a laid back way. He is always on hand to help, but after creating organizing jobs for community members he allows them to order the food and deal with the money. He offers support and assistance but is able to step back from the day to day work. He also provides information to other people interested in the co-op model. It is fast becoming the most popular model of low income food assistance because of the sensitive way it provides aid.
I was able to see through our time on Georgia Ave how much more helpful this model is over a soup kitchen. It allows people to network with community members to find jobs while relieving stress of having enough food to pay other bills. Several families told us that they have been able to catch up on mortgage payments and keep their homes because of this program.
Most of all Georgia Avenue is a place of hope and a promise of a better life for its members. I was profoundly affected by the optimism of the entire organization.