Food4Lives (F4L), an organization founded in 2017 by a group of Tech and Emory University students, was motivated by a desire to feed and empower the Atlanta homeless population in a meaningful way. Communications Director Powell Harris, LMC ‘20, explains Food4Lives’ philosophy.
“The exchange between volunteers and the homeless is a two-way connection,” said Harris. “The food is a platform and what is being exchanged is attention, care and the human connection that gives people hope and dignity.”
Harris became involved at F4L during his junior year at Tech and volunteering became a weekly activity for him.
“A group of 20-50 mixed volunteers would cook a giant lunch for 200 people with six to eight fresh items plus 10-20 different kinds of snacks, chips, yogurt and sometimes clothes and sanitary items,” said Harris. “While we served around Downtown and the Georgia State area, another group of volunteers cooked lunch for us and then we would meet at the kitchen for a big lunch and we’d hang out and get to know each other.”
Recently, F4L expanded to Athens, where food is served twice a week with University of Georgia students.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, F4L’s programs have been altered, but are still providing food.
“We have to be so careful about social distancing, isolating groups of volunteers and using protective equipment,” said Harris. “But simultaneously, the need has grown and so the opportunity to serve has strengthened our service community and volunteer network. We are humbled to have been able to serve seven days a week for over 160 days continuously and counting.”
Logistically, this has meant changing how the food is made.
“We have to limit the volunteers in the kitchen, and for many months we have ceased cooking in the kitchen entirely,” said Harris. “But service cannot stop supporting these people, instead our new model brings in fresh food donations daily from 150 plus families around Atlanta … This food is packed into boxes and delivered by frontline food workers with masks and gloves.”
For Harris, working during the pandemic has been eye-opening.
“After the shutdown of the city and its social services, we went out with vans full of fresh food and found hundreds of adults, elderly and families living on the streets who had not eaten a real meal in days,” said Harris. “This was the first time I saw real hunger during our service and it helped me appreciate the importance of us smaller organizations.”
There are numerous opportunities for students to volunteer with F4L.
“The economic impact of COVID is ongoing, but the increased need can be a win/win for student groups looking to engage their members… ” said Harris. “What we need from Georgia Tech is volunteer groups who can volunteer to come once a week. Everyone is looking for ways to be social and contribute.”
To sign up for service days as a student organization or group, students can contact [email protected].
Students interested in internship positions in areas such as social media, volunteer coordination and much more within F4L can contact Powell Harris at [email protected] for more information.