Olens starts food fight with lawyers

By WALTER C. JONES Morris News Service ATLANTA -- Attorney General Sam Olens challenged the state's 10,000 lawyers Wednesday to a food fight of sorts. It's to collect money and groceries for the state's seven regional food banks. He held a Capitol press conference to prompt the 250 firms across Georgia to compete in the Georgia Legal Food Frenzy.
"There is no ZIP Code in the state, unfortunately, that doesn't have children needing food," he said. Roughly seven of every 10 school-age children come from families poor enough to qualify for free or reduced lunches. When school is out, the food banks and the hundreds of local food pantries they supply come under the greatest season 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, executive director of the Golden Harvest Food Bank in the Augusta region. "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 leg work 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 Lawyer President Stephanie Kirijan. The announcement coincided with the food banks' 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 foods, but the food banks must pay the tax like every other corporation, even though they're non-profit. "This would enable us to purchase more food and help more people," said Mary Jane Couch, 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, executive director of the Georgia Food Bank Association. On the web: www.galegalfrenzy.org www.georgiafoodbankassociation.org

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