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This Metro Atlanta Food Pantry Partnered with CARE to Feed More Families

A woman manager of a food bank sits in front of shelves stocked with food items.

CARE has partnered with Community Outreach in Action to hire drivers and deliver food to those who would otherwise go without. 

“Look at the love, look at the love,” Charlie Burton says over and over.

On a blazing hot summer’s day, Charlie stands next to his wife, Robin, on the stoop of their two-story brick house in Ellenwood, Georgia. They watch as Janice Dixon, who runs the local food pantry Community Outreach in Action, unloads boxes from a vehicle and brings them into their home.

“Oh, my Lord, Janice. What a pleasant surprise,” Robin says, as she bursts into tears. “I didn’t mean to [cry], but I thank you, I love you.”

Robin has breast cancer and left her job amid the pandemic to reduce her risk of contracting COVID-19. The couple has been relying on Charlie’s disability payments and has been under immense financial pressure due to insufficient health insurance for Robin’s chemotherapy. Now, with regular food deliveries from Community Outreach in Action, the Burtons have one less thing to worry about, and are able to afford their copay at the doctor’s office.

A husband and wife hold hands while standing on the porch of their home in front of a glass door.
Charlie and Robin Burton are overcome with emotion as they receive a CARE Package delivery of food and other supplies from Community Outreach in Action in partnership with CARE. Photo: Laura Noel/CARE

“Janice has been, really, truly a blessing,” Robin says, as Charlie wraps his arm affectionately around his wife’s shoulder and holds her hand. “I appreciate it, from the bottom of my heart, I love you. Y’all have just really been there for us.”

The entirely volunteer-run community initiative distributes food twice a week free-of-charge to low-income seniors. During the pandemic, a partnership with CARE has helped the organization more than double the number of families it supports.

Janice Dixon, the founder, was working at a church in 2012 when she noticed an increase in community members asking the church for food. Janice took this on a personal project. Together with family members, she began clipping coupons in the Sunday paper and buying food to distribute, and Community Outreach in Action was born.

6 million in the U.S. have registered for food benefits since the start of the pandic

In recent months, Janice says needs have surged. “We’ve seen a lot of hardworking people who used to have jobs now come to us to get a little food to help to feed their kids.”

During the pandemic, CARE USA launched a domestic response for the first time in its 75-year history, rolling out U.S.-based CARE Packages to provide monetary assistance, food, and essential supplies to individuals in need and at risk across the country through various partnerships, including local organizations like Community Outreach in Action. CARE created the CARE Package at the end of World War II to aid the post-war poor and hungry, delivering over 100 million of them to struggling families around the world. With the launch of the domestic CARE Package, they now also support families like the Burtons with food deliveries through a contactless delivery service.

Since the start of the pandemic, 6 million people in the U.S. have registered for food benefits. According to Janice, although needs have surged, some food pantries in Clayton County where Community Outreach in Action is based have closed, making it more difficult for community members to access food. “People are hurting. People need help…. You may have food stamps, public assistance — but it can only go so far.”

Meet the Teacher Who Survived COVID-19

Tyehesha Alexander is a teacher and also a driver for Community Outreach in Action in partnership with CARE.

A woman holds a hand drawn thank you card.

Janice’s team has focused on providing food to seniors who are unable, or scared to access grocery stores, and have generally been isolating due to coronavirus. Some of these seniors are the primary caregivers for their grandchildren. Tyehesa Alexander, who is a driver with Community Outreach in Action, is particularly concerned about children who rely on school feeding programs.

“I’m sure a lot of people would go hungry without these food items,” she says. “COVID-19 has truly changed the way I see things. People are definitely in need. The unemployment rate has skyrocketed.”

“I know what it feels like to be in isolation. I know what it feels like to be alone.”

Tyehesa has experienced this firsthand. An elementary school teacher, Tyehesa was laid off due to school closures during the pandemic but expects to return to work. In the meantime, she delivers food boxes to community members, many of whom are seniors and isolating, which she can also relate to.

In March, Tyehesa contacted the coronavirus and went into isolation for 14 days. While she made a complete recovery, the experience has helped her relate to others who are in isolation, whether due to the virus, or the fear of contracting it.

“I know what it feels like to be in isolation. I know what it feels like to … be alone,” she says. “When we [pantry drivers] come by, it’s a chance for [community members] to talk to somebody — to actually see a person face-to-face, even if it’s just through the screen of the door or them just peeking through the window.”

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