Statesboro Food Bank provides beyond Thanksgiving

Photo by: Will Price

William Price

In 1987 the Statesboro Food Bank provided food for around three to four families a week, they now provide food to over 45 families a week and more than 3,000 a year.

The Statesboro Food Bank is a non-profit organization centered on providing food to those in need in the Statesboro/Bulloch County area. The organization accepts donations and offers food all year round, but sees an increase in giving throughout the holiday season, especially Thanksgiving.

“It’s a universal law just like gravity, if you wish to receive a blessing you have to grant others a blessing of their own,” Joe Bill Brannon, operations director of the Statesboro Food Bank, said.

The food bank is giving more than 150 Thanksgiving care packages the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The packages include a turkey and a collection of canned Thanksgiving favorites like green beans, stuffing mix and beets.

“For some of these people they have nowhere else to go, the government’s food aid can only come so fast, we’re trying to help wherever we can for Thanksgiving and beyond,” Jodi Brannon, manager of the Statesboro Food Bank and daughter of Joe Bill Brannon, said.

The national Interfraternity Council has pledged to join in the giving by matching the number of turkeys donated by fraternities at Georgia Southern University, and all of the birds will then go to the Food Bank to be distributed.

Joe Bill Brannon recalls why he sees the food bank as an important project in the community.

“I was born in the south in 1937. There was no welfare then, we had a split family, almost never had lights on or air conditioning on. A bag of pinto beans once or twice a week was like a feast to us,” Brannon said. “I know what it is to be hungry and I will not let that happen to others if I can help it.”

“Even if it’s just that little bit of help, just that one kid that graduates because he received a meal or two from us, or that one mother who got back on her feet from a little help from us, that’s enough for us to keep going, in those cases we’ve won,” Brannon said.

The father-daughter duo of Joe Bill Brannon and Jodi Brannon who manage and direct Statesboro’s Food Bank note GSU as a primary factor in the long-term success of the institution.

“We couldn’t be the type of food bank we are without the help of Georgia Southern. The amount of students volunteering, donating and helping out around here is absolutely essential to serving the greater community like we want to,” Joe Bill Brannon said.

GSU’s Ceramics Department hosts the Empty Bowl Project every year, giving all of the proceeds to the Statesboro Food Bank. This year more than $5,500 was raised, a 30 percent increase over the previous year’s event.

Other events and organizations around campus also do work to help the non-profit organization. GSU Homecoming held “Sculpt for the Hungry” where more than 5,000 cans were donated. GSU Athletics, GSU Benefits and multiple other organizations also have donated to the food bank recently.

GSU is also a primary source of volunteers and manpower within the organization.

“It’s a hard and rewarding job, you see the real side of Statesboro that GSU students don’t often get to see,” Courtney Tielking, community liaison at the Statesboro Food Bank and junior Spanish and international studies major, said.

“If more students knew about it they could both use it and put back in to it, a lot of people don’t know it exists or that it is available to them if they need it,” Tielking said.

The food bank’s main clients are locals stuck between jobs and out of luck, Jodi Brannon said.

“The first time I came by here I was hardly able to speak I was so embarrassed. I mean, you can’t provide something so simple like food for your family, it eats you up on the inside, you feel like you’ve failed. I can’t begin to describe it, you’re helpless,” Felicia, a local Statesboro Food Bank aide recipient and mother of three, said. Felicia requested her last name remain unknown for privacy reasons.

Felicia said, “When my family and I gathered for dinner I looked at my kids and broke down in tears. You look over small things like a simple meal when you don’t have a problem getting that meal on the table. It felt like the world was lifted off my shoulders.”