ATLANTA — Two Georgia organizations are coming together to tackle the increasing issue of food insecurity across the state.
Unite Georgia - a technology company that connects health and social care service partners to community members - recently partnered with the non-profit Wholesome Wave Georgia to expand the reach of access that Georgians have to affordable, healthy and fresh food.
“Throughout the time that we have been launched, we have seen food insecurity be one of the top three needs for residents in the city of Atlanta, as well as the greater Atlanta area,” Tori Guy, Community Engagement Manager with Unite Georgia, said. “And so organizations like Wholesome Wave provide that much-needed linkage for different organizations to be able to refer to their residents to get access to SNAP benefits or any other kind of emergency food need that they have.”
According to the release, through Unite Georgia, the non-profit and its partners will be able to track outcomes and refer to one another electronically by providing a central point of contact where health care providers, social service organizations, and individuals can securely access and refer people to needed services.
Will Sellers is the Executive Director of Wholesome Wave, and he sees this as a perfect opportunity to further develop and improve their outreach tactics in the community.
“We work in 47 cities and 37 counties around the state of Georgia. So being on the Unite Georgia platform allows us to reach people in a timely manner, follow up on those requests and make sure that we're able to provide the information that families need in these difficult times to take care of their families,” he said.
Through the organization’s various partnerships with 77 food markets, farm stands and retail locations, along with the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) SNAP, Wholesome Wave Georgia works closely with families who receive SNAP benefits to provide them with discounts and the opportunity to put their money back into the community.
“Not only do we make it possible to expand access to fresh, healthy, locally grown food, we also have the ability to screen Georgians for SNAP benefits,” Sellers said. “So what we do with Wholesome Wave Georgia is we double the value of SNAP benefits for our neighbors in need - the SNAP families that we serve, who are shopping at participating farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets and then also brick and mortar retailers.”
Farmers markets that partner with Wholesome Wave will accept and match SNAP benefits across Georgia. Therefore, if a SNAP recipient spends $10 at a participating market, they get an extra $10 to spend on healthy food.
In addition, the organization also partners with the Good Samaritan Health Center for the Food for Health Program, where individuals can get medical check-ups while also shopping for healthy food on the campus’ urban farm.
“So not only are you able to go and address your medical, dental and then also mental health needs. If you're a SNAP recipient, you can buy food at the farmers market. You can walk through the urban farm to see food growing in your community,” Sellers said.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Sellers said that the demand for these services had increased drastically due to the rise in gas, food and overall inflation.
For this reason, Guy encourages any organization who wants to make a larger impact across the state to join the Unite Georgia initiative.
“We really do welcome anybody in the state that is interested in supporting their clients in a really holistic way to provide those closed-loop referrals that really will allow them to get many of their needs addressed to improve the health in their community and in the state at large,'' she said.