Georgia attorney general challenges lawyers to food fight

ATLANTA — Augusta’s Golden Harvest Food Bank could come out a winner in a food fight initiated Wednesday at the state Capitol.

Attorney General Sam Olens challenged the state’s 10,000 lawyers to compete in the Georgia Legal Food Frenzy, a way to collect money and groceries for the state’s seven regional food banks.

He held a Capitol news conference to prompt the 250 law firms across the state to take part.

“There is no ZIP code in the state, unfortunately, that doesn’t have children needing food,” the attorney general said.

Roughly seven of every 10 school-age children come from families poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. When school is out, food banks and the hundreds of food pantries they supply come under the greatest pressure to feed those children.

The lawyers’ collection drive runs the two weeks up to May 4, Law Day.

“What’s good about this one is the timing,” said Michael Firmin, the executive director of Golden Harvest. “Most people think the greatest need is the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.”

Olens borrowed the idea for the lawyers’ food drive from Virginia’s bar association, which collected 600,000 pounds its first year and more than 2.5 million pounds last year. He recruited the State Bar of Georgia’s Young Lawyers Division for the legwork and is offering prizes to the firms of various sizes that make the biggest haul.

“It’s as simple as picking up extra items while you’re food shopping,” said Young Lawyers President Stephanie Kirijan.

The announcement coincided with the food banks officials’ trip to the Capitol to showcase the need for legislation sponsored by Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, that would grant them an exemption from sales tax for their inventory. Georgia already exempts individuals from paying a sales tax on food, but the food banks, like every other corporation, must pay the tax, even though they’re nonprofit.

“This would enable us to purchase more food and help more people,” said Mary Jane Couch, the executive director of America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia, based in Savannah.

The exemption would free up $800,000 yearly for more grocery purchases for the seven food banks, according to Danah Craft, the executive director of the Georgia Food Bank Association.

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