Working to End Hunger

David Hanks honored as Silent Hero of the Wiregrass

David at Wiregrass Area Food BankAccording to Feeding America, food insecurity affects 1 in 7 people across Alabama. Each day, Wiregrass Area Food Bank CEO David Hanks and his team work to lessen the number of people impacted by hunger.

Recently named a Silent Hero of the Wiregrass, Hanks is responsible for the considerable growth the Wiregrass Area Food Bank has experienced in his 20-plus years at its helm.

Around 2000, the food bank distributed about 1 million pounds of food each year. That number has now risen to 3.3 million pounds a year. The food bank has also gone from one van and Hanks’ personal truck to a seven-vehicle fleet that is on the road daily to pick up food from grocery stores and distribution centers. The food, which would otherwise end up in landfills, is housed in a 22,000-square-foot warehouse. The facility has grown more than 10,000 square feet in the past two decades.

“I’m really proud of the growth,” Hanks says. “My work here is very fulfilling. I see the growth happen and I know I’m accomplishing something important for the community.”

About the Food Bank & Hanks

The food bank pursues its mission to provide food to those at or below the poverty level or those in a food emergency, and to stop food from being thrown away.

David Hanks operating a forklift“Some of our best days are when we get someone who’s used the food bank system — maybe they lost their job or had to quit to help a sick family member — then they got back on their feet and they come back,” Hanks says. “They realize they want to give back to the food bank because we were there when they needed assistance and they know how important it is to people across Southeast Alabama. We look at it as a hand up, so they can get back on their feet and achieve something bigger and better in their lives.”

Before his time as the food bank CEO, Hanks went to work equipped with a calculator as an accountant and buried himself in spreadsheets, formulas and equations. Now, Hanks is glad to have a bit more variety.

“I could be on a forklift one day, then out picking up food the next and talking to local organizations we support later in the week. I still get to crunch numbers at the end of the month,” he says. “I never really get bored, and in the end it’s rewarding because you see the fruits of your labor.”

Hanks is also quick to mention his appreciation for the staff of 15 at the food bank and its 200-plus volunteers who help each month.

“We have a great staff,” he says. “They’re all on board with the same goal to help those in a food emergency, and our volunteers are the backbone of our organization. I’m grateful for their support.”

Generous Community

David Hanks and another person working together at the Wiregrass Area food bankWhile the work to end hunger doesn’t stop, the holiday season is particularly busy. More than a million pounds of food is given away during the final two months of each year. It’s also a time when volunteer hours rise, as locals try to use the community service hours given to them by their employers.

“We’re doing the most we can with what we have available,” Hanks says. “There’s a limited amount of food to pick up from grocery stores and distribution centers, so we try to stretch it as far as we can throughout the six counties we serve.”

With as little as a $1 donation, the Wiregrass Area Food Bank can provide 12 pounds of food and roughly nine meals for those served by the food bank network.

“A recent truckload of food we received, which is about 35,000 pounds, only cost us $1,500 for transportation,” Hanks says. “This is the most generous area I’ve ever lived or worked in. Someone is always willing to step up and help. It makes our job so much easier.”

About the Recognition

The Silent Heroes of the Wiregrass program is a partnership between Wiregrass Electric Cooperative and WTVY News 4. Those honored by the program receive a donation to continue their work, as well as being featured in a local television report and Alabama Living magazine.

“Our ORU Foundation Board was very proud to give the Wiregrass Area Food Bank a $1,000 donation from the WEC Operation Round Up program to help David and his staff continue such important work across the region,” says Brad Kimbro, WEC chief operating officer.

If you’d like to nominate someone for Silent Heroes of the Wiregrass, contact WEC or WTVY News 4.

“It’s very humbling to be given this recognition,” Hanks says. “I believe you do what you’re put on Earth to do, and I feel like I was put in this spot for a reason.

For those people interested in how they can provide assistance, Hanks mentions the importance of hosting a food drive, fundraising and volunteering hours.