A 53-foot freezer trailer mounted to a Ryder truck made its way into Truist Park on Friday afternoon and will stay there through at least the end of August.

Truist Park will become a food distribution center for local nonprofits, according to Shari Martin, president and CEO of the Cobb Community Foundation.

Cobb Community Foundation on Monday announced the Cobb Community Food Fleet, an initiative that brings together Noonday Association, Athena Farms, the Atlanta Braves, Ryder Trucks, S.A. White Oil Company, Mobilized Fuels and numerous Cobb County nonprofits to ensure that “lack of storage space does not hinder Cobb nonprofits’ food distribution efforts to those in need,” according to a news release from the organization.

Over the next two months, Noonday will be coordinating the logistics of food delivery by Athena Farms and other providers and the subsequent pick-up by five of the larger food nonprofits: MUST Ministries, Storehouse Ministries, Reflections of Trinity, Sweetwater Mission, and Family Life Restoration Center.

These organizations will be picking up food not just for their clients, but also for other smaller nonprofit food providers.

The initiative began unnamed in mid March when Cobb Community Foundation contacted United Way of Metro Atlanta and Cobb Collaborative to try to connect nonprofits, schools and local government to understand their needs and challenges, the release said.

“One of the many outcomes resulting from this group’s efforts is that in an environment where over 100,000 Cobb Countians have lost their jobs, more than half of them being in the lowest paying industries, Cobb’s nonprofits are providing boxes of food to over 5,000 families each week,” the news release says.

Howard Koepka of Noonday Association coordinates the communications among 20 or more organizations distributing food in Cobb County, including MUST Ministries, the Cobb and Marietta school districts and Cobb Senior Services, as well as smaller organizations.

“Many of these organizations did not know that each other existed,” Koepka said. “Now, they not only are aware of each other, they are eliminating duplications of services, identifying and serving areas unserved, and literally sharing food, box trucks and other resources to make sure that everyone in Cobb County has access to food, regardless of whether or not they can pay for it.”

Local nonprofits have faced challenges in accessing the large quantity of food needed to serve their communities because of supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19, but they have also had difficulty storing that food, according to nonprofit leaders.

While the US Department of Agriculture’s new Farmers to Families Food Box Program has created an abundance of certain foods, primarily produce, which Cobb’s food providers want to take full advantage of, the issue has been where to put it, Koepka said.

“Produce needs to be refrigerated, and no single organization has enough space to accommodate the 2,000 and soon 3,000 boxes that are now coming in each week from Athena Farms,” he said of the one of more than 40 contractors in the Southeast that was awarded funds from the USDA to distribute food boxes.

Athena delivered 2,000 boxes of produce, and larger shipments are expected to come at least through the end of June, according to Cobb Community Foundation. That produce is being stored in the Braves’ large stadium refrigerator.

While the Atlanta Braves refrigerator space had been filled by the produce, the Braves’ loading dock was still open. That’s where Huddle House and one of their vendors, Ryder Trucks, stepped in.

Ryder provided the 53-foot freezer container and trailer, which Huddle House transported to the stadium, and Mobilized Fuels, S.A. White’s sister company, will provide the diesel fuel needed to keep the freezer running until the end of August. Others have stepped up to provide access to refrigeration during deliveries.

Kim Gresh, S.A. White owner and Cobb Community Foundation board member, as well as Travis Ellis, vice president of Mobilized Fuels, reached out to Huddle House and Ryder to coordinate the delivery.

In the meantime, Cobb Community Foundation says it is continuing to identify resources, financial and otherwise, to help feed Cobb Countians.

“Thanks to the Cobb Board of Commissioners grant of $1 million for food last month, these organizations will be able to purchase additional food needed in bulk,” Martin said.

She said frozen meat, as well as canned and dry goods remain in high demand.

Follow Thomas Hartwell on Twitter at twitter.com/MDJThomas.

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