Tiny Pantries Address Food Insecurity in Union County

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“What do you do when a teenager sits down with you and shares his vision for creating a better community—while inspiring other teens to begin a lifetime of service—and he asks you to help find a project? You start thinking of ways to put the group to work, of course,” said Katy Jones, Union County Family Connection coordinator.

This is how Bless Blairsville, a new service organization founded by Landon Kight, who approached the Georgia Family Connection Collaborative for guidance, brought the tiny pantries idea to life.

“Bless Blairsville took charge to make an idea a reality,” said Jones. The organization raised funds, coordinated with Union County High School’s construction class to build the tiny pantry, and teamed up with the Beacon Mission Team from First Baptist Church to install and stock the pantry.

“We determined the location based on the busiest food pick-up location for families when schools were shut down due to COVID-19 in 2020,” said Jones. “We wanted it to be easily accessible, away from other food services and in an area of high need.”

The first tiny pantry opened in April 2021 during a weekend of hands-on student-led activities spearheaded by Bless Blairsville, which included hosting a clothing and shoe drive, baking cookies for health care workers, adapting toys for kids with special needs, sewing “trauma dolls” donated by Kiwanis Club, landscaping a COVID-19 health care worker memorial, and picking up trash along roadways.

Kight’s idea for Bless Blairsville came about after cleaning out pantries and organizing closets at a homeless shelter while participating in the service project Love Atlanta in May 2020.

“Volunteering with that project gave me a sense of purpose to be able to serve others, and I wanted to bring the same experience to Blairsville,” said Kight. “We identified existing organizations that know the needs of the community. Our group will work to support these existing organizations.”

A second food pantry opened in the spring on the opposite end of the county. “This has truly been a community effort to help reduce food insecurity,” said Jones. “We encourage residents to take what they need and leave what they can.”

Kight hopes to make Bless Blairsville a regular feature of the community, taking on more projects this fall and growing the program to include more student volunteers and community organizations.

“I want to get kids my age involved in serving their community in hopes that this desire will last a lifetime for all of us,” he said. “Volunteerism and mission work can be done right here in our own town, not just in faraway places.”

Krystin Dean
GaFCP Communications Specialist

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Georgia Family Connection Partnership (GaFCP) is a public-private partnership created by the State of Georgia and investors from the private sector to assist communities in addressing the serious challenges facing children and families. GaFCP also serves as a resource to state agencies across Georgia that work to improve the conditions of children and families. Georgia KIDS COUNT provides policymakers and citizens with current data they need to make informed decisions regarding priorities, services, and resources that impact Georgia’s children, youth, families, and communities.