Food Banks begin to open as volunteers return


Loaves and Fishes Ministry

Valerie Sewell, the director of operations at Loaves and Fishes Ministry, getting ready to serve a lunch that was provided by a children’s group, according to Jake Ferro.

The Macon Newsroom reported in November of 2020 that many food banks were losing volunteers during the pandemic. 

Middle Georgia Community Food Bank saw a loss in volunteers across its 170 agencies, and an increase in need at the beginning of the pandmeic, according to Executive Director Kathy McCollum. 

As the pandemic begins to wind down between COVID-19 vaccination and declining rates of infection since 2020, volunteers have begun to return to helping at food banks. 

Jake Ferro, the executive director of Loaves and Fishes Ministry of Macon, continued to work through the pandemic alongside his part time employees and volunteers.

“We never shut down, we continued to supply services, but were very limited,” Ferro said. “A lot of the services had to be cut back dramatically, because of the lack of volunteers.”

Loaves and Fishes Ministry of Macon has only four part time employees with anywhere from one to six volunteers on any given day. That volunteer number was reduced to two during the pandemic, according to Ferro. 

“[They] stuck with us, through the peak of the pandemic, and were fantastic,” Ferro said. 

McCollum said that the Middle Georgia Community Food Bank’s agencies experienced increased need for help during the pandemic.

“We were seeing really long lines, particularly at the mobile distributions,” McCollum said. “I think the pandemic just made it much more visible to everybody with what was going on.”

An increase in need from consumers meant an increase in labor need, but there was a struggle finding volunteers, according to McCollum.

“A lot of the volunteers at those agencies were retired people who were in the most vulnerable groups in terms of health,” McCollum said. “So a lot of those agencies closed down.”

But now, McCollum said, many of those agencies have begun to reopen thanks to returning volunteers and the mindset of the individual, especially faith-based food pantries. 

“Depending on whether their churches were open for worship services, or whether they were allowing their building to be open during the week for other types of ministries had a lot to do with whether those food pantries continued or not,” McCollum said. 

It wasn’t until recently that Loaves and Fishes began to operate at a normal level thanks to the return of volunteers and part time workers. 

“We have a combination of a core group of part time employees and a core group of volunteers,” Ferro said.

Even in the midst of changing need, McCoullm and Ferro wanted to assure the community that they would be there to help. 

“Well, we are stronger than ever,” McCollum said. “We’ve made some really valuable improvements here in our operation so that we will be able to very efficiently take care of the need as it does go up and down.”

“One of our mantras is to continue to tell our story, don’t be the best kept secret,” Ferro said. “We want people to know that this is where hope lives.” 

Appointments for a variety of services such as groceries, birth certificates, IDs, or prescription assistance can be made with Loaves and Fishes Ministry of Macon at their website at least a day in advance.

The Middle Georgia Community Food Bank website,, can guide anyone to help as well through their various agencies.