Tackling the meal gap

Last year Food Bank CENC distributed 70 million pounds of food across our 34-county service area. That equates to nearly 59 million meals for neighbors in need.

Food distributed by Food Bank CENC is fiscal year 2016-17

Food distributed by Food Bank CENC is fiscal year 2016-17

Despite these record highs for our organization, we know there is still a 110 million meal gap that exists in our service area. We still have a long way to go to ensure every resident in our service area had enough to eat.

To close the meal gap, we all need to be able to do more. Our new Raleigh facility has already increased our food distribution by over 2 million meals, and volunteerism by over 20%. But many of our Partner Agencies (network of local food pantries) face challenges such as small spaces or limited resources.

That’s where Food Lion comes in. In addition to being a Humanitarian Partner to the Food Bank, their annual project The Great Pantry Makeover is an exciting capacity building movement for our Partner Agencies! They help our agencies focus on what they do so well and less on maintenance of buildings and equipment, which is important in the world of food distribution. From new freezers, to fresh paint, to stocking shelves with food, pantry makeovers mean more healthy food will reach those who need it. What starts as a few days of excitement creates lasting change and chips away at the meal gap.

This year, in celebration of their 60th anniversary, Food Lion completed 60 total makeovers across 10 states. Here’s a look at a few of our Partner Agency’s makeovers, courtesy of Food Lion’s blog:

Gang Free, Inc. – Vance County

(Full recap) When Melissa Elliott founded Gang Free, Inc., the focus was on ending gang violence in a rough part of Henderson, N.C., not actually on feeding the hungry. But, everything changed when a seven-year-old student enrolled in her after-school program was given a piece of pizza, cut the slice in half, took half home and then returned the next morning with the second half.

“I knew at that point that he may not be the only child fighting hunger,” said Elliott.

So, Elliott contacted the Food Bank for Central & Eastern North Carolina in Raleigh, N.C., and a partnership was born. But, the facility knew it needed some renovations in order to meet the needs of the community, and Food Lion knew it could help through Food Lion Feeds.

The Great Pantry Makeover at Gang Free, Inc.At Gang Free, the team of 15 local Food Lion store managers performed a variety of work, from repainting and replacing the flooring in several rooms, donating a new commercial refrigerator and freezer, performing landscaping work around the complex, power-washing the exterior of several buildings, tending to the garden as well as a number of other much-needed tasks around the three-building complex.

To top it all off, they also stocked the food pantry full of hearty and nutritious food to help end hunger in the Henderson community.

“If you think about the youth in Henderson, I cannot think of a better way or more of a priority than to make sure our youth are given every chance that they can get to succeed and have a place to come that’s safe and be able to get nourished, and that folds right into what we do at Food Lion with our organization and with Food Lion Feeds,” said Mike Hall, Food Lion’s director of operations over the Henderson area.

Through the efforts, Gang Free will no longer need to worry about having enough refrigeration or safe facilities to cook and serve food, and can solely dedicate themselves to doing what they do best: serving at-risk youth in Henderson.

The Great Pantry Makeover at Gang Free, Inc.

Word of Truth Anointed Ministries – Pitt County

(Full recap) Sandra Williams and her husband Pastor Wilbert have been a blessing to the town of Farmville, N.C. Upon meeting them, their passion for feeding the hungry and touching the lives of people in their community is clearly evident.

In 2016, after learning about the need to serve the food insecure in Farmville, Sandra opened a food pantry out of the couple’s church, Word of Truth Anointed Ministries. The pantry started with two volunteers and served 38 people on their very first day, and just last month the pantry served 488 people!

This growth over such a short period of time stretched the pantry’s resources to capacity. Thankfully, their friends at the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina thought to nominate them for Food Lion’s 2017 The Great Pantry Makeover for the opportunity to expand their services.

The Great Pantry Makeover at Word of Truth Anointed Ministries

“We are so thankful, and so appreciative,” said Sandra. “We would have never thought you all would be here; we were so surprised when we found out we had been chosen. What a blessing.”

Sandra and her volunteers welcomed Food Lion associates to their pantry with a warm breakfast to get them started on the day’s projects. Associates were eager to paint, build shelves and restock the pantry for distribution to customers the next day. Through the makeover, the pantry was also able to purchase new appliances and equipment to compliment the pantry’s expansion.

Throughout the day, clients served by the pantry stopped in to see the new updates and show their support of the pantry. Paulette Pridgen has been receiving food from the pantry for two months now.

“I’ve been out of work and I’m kind of having a hard time,” explained Pridgen. “A friend introduced me to the pantry, and they support me with the food donations. I’m able to come and pick out what I want, and I like that.”

Food Lion is thankful for the assistance the pantry provides to Paulette and so many others in the Farmville community.

The Great Pantry Makeover at Word of Truth Anointed Ministries

The Good Samaritan Pantry – Brunswick County

(Full recap) The Good Samaritan Pantry in Leland, N.C. marked the 60th pantry that received a makeover as part of Food Lion’s “The Great Pantry Makeover” campaign.  And, it could not have been a more perfect day for the last makeover to take place on Dec. 12, as Food Lion also celebrated its 60th anniversary on this day!

Established in 2011, The Good Samaritan Pantry aims to provide a helping hand to seniors and families in need in the Leland/Northwest communities of Brunswick County. Shirley Freeman, who manages the pantry says they open their doors three times a month and serve 75-80 families members each time. As part of the makeover, Good Samaritan received new shelving and a new freezer to help increase their storage capacity.

The Great Pantry Makeover at The Good Samaritan Pantry

“Our old freezer would break down sometimes which was a big problem because the food would thaw and we couldn’t give it out” explained Freeman. “The new freezer is a huge blessing and will double what we can store. We love Food Lion!”  

Volunteers from Food Lion put their skillsets to work during the makeover by painting the entire interior of the building, assembling shelving, installing the new freezer, installing a new door frame and reorganizing the pantry.

“Today has been a lot of hard work, but also fun” said Chris Harris of Food Lion Store 852 in Leland. “Look at what we did today; we accomplished so much!”

Throughout the day, volunteers and church members stopped by to see how the makeover was coming along and to simply thank Food Lion for their support.  It was a heartwarming day and when Freeman looked around at how much more organized and clean the pantry was, she summed the day up perfectly by exclaiming “now this is a makeover!”

The Great Pantry Makeover at The Good Samaritan Pantry

Thank you Food Lion!