To the editor:
The Alabama legal community stepped up last year to deliver more than $32,000 in donations to food banks as they scrambled to meet a sudden spike in demand. This year, organizers of the Alabama Legal Food Frenzy have set the bar even higher.
The Food Frenzy is an annual fundraiser of the Alabama State Bar that supports food banks statewide, including Feeding the Gulf Coast here in South Alabama. And that support is needed now more than ever. Locally, demand for food assistance jumped 33 percent last year over 2019 as the COVID-19 pandemic took its economic toll, according to Feeding the Gulf Coast.
Missy Busby, the organization’s volunteer and food drive manager, said children have been hurt the most. In 2020, one in every five adults across the group’s Gulf Coast service region was “food insecure,” meaning they did not know where their next meal was coming from. Among children, it was one in three.
As the pandemic increased the need for food assistance, it also hindered the ability of local groups to provide it. Connie Guggenbiller, director of the food pantry at Central Presbyterian Church in Mobile, said some local food pantries were forced to close to keep volunteers and staff safe from COVID-19. Central Presbyterian managed to keep its food bank going by devising a drive-thru system with help from a neighbor, the Alabama School of Math and Science. Pre-pandemic, the church was helping about 80 families each week, Guggenbiller said. Last year, that grew to 700. The loss of even one paycheck can be devastating, and the pandemic has hit people from all walks of life, Guggenbiller said. “It makes me grateful that we can do what we’ve been able to do.”
Money raised by the Food Frenzy in South Alabama will go to Feeding the Gulf Coast. Last year, the group supplied 33 million meals across the region. Although individuals may donate through the Food Frenzy, it is structured as a friendly competition among law firms and other legal organizations, which sign up as a team and vie for top-donor honors by category (solo proprietor; small, medium, or large firm; legal organization). Signups are happening now. The contest runs April 20 through May 4. Until last year, groups could donate food and funds; in light of the pandemic, the event is online only, so only money donations can be accepted.
Although vaccination efforts are finally offering some light at the end of our COVID tunnel, the pandemic’s economic damage is likely to linger. There is no vaccine for hunger. If you are a member of the Alabama legal community, I hope you will consider supporting the Food Frenzy this year. If you’re not, I hope you will consider donating anyway — whether it’s time or money, through the Food Frenzy or directly to a local service provider. It’s a great way to show our gratitude for making it this far.
For more information on the Alabama Legal Food Frenzy or to sign up, visit AlabamaLegalFoodFrenzy.org.
Alabama Legal Food Frenzy Task Force
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