The Food Bank is committed to serving those in need, and we’re very thankful for the trust that’s placed in us – by our donors, our volunteers, by our Partner Agencies. We could never do this important work alone. Below are just some of the ways we’re working to safely get food out into the community throughout COVID-19.
The Food Bank Is Still Open – And We’re Here For The Long Haul
Note: The Food Bank, our Partner Agencies, and volunteers are exempt from Governor Cooper’s Stay at Home Order and may continue to operate and serve. Continuing to follow the CDC’s guidance for best practices is necessary. Continue to practice physical distancing, and remain at home if you are not feeling well.
On top of our normal operations serving the community, the Food Bank has distributed 8,817 family-sized boxes, containing 20 meals per box, in response to the COVID-19 crisis (as of April 3). Of these boxes, 3,450 have been packed with love by small groups of volunteers, and the rest are purchased food that comes pre-packaged and ready to go. This helps us ensure we follow CDC guidance when it comes to volunteer health and safety. These boxes are what we’re hearing are most helpful to the community right now, providing more meals to sustain people during these uncertain times. Through coordinated efforts, these boxes have gone to our network of disaster relief partner agencies, some school districts, and New Hanover County Meals on Wheels.
Cedar Grove has a regular monthly food distribution – that almost ceased to occur. First, Cedar Grove Community Center had closed. Our Outreach Coordinator Jen Woods called Orange County Parks & Rec and the distribution transformed into drive through style. Second, most regular volunteers are seniors. We partnered with PORCH and Orange County Food Council to find volunteers. This perseverance and partnership means 142 households now have food to eat and a little bit of comfort during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As COVID-19 interrupts our daily lives and Food Bank operations, our staff continue to rise to the occasion. For 3 years the Food Bank has administered a federal nutrition program that feeds seniors, called CSFP, where each month volunteers pack nearly 6,000 boxes and our Partner Agency network distributes the boxes to seniors across our service area. Because of COVID-19, some Partner Agencies are unable to distribute the boxes, so more than a dozen Food Bank staff & core volunteers loaded up their cars and hit the road. These Hunger Heroes delivered nearly 250 boxes to seniors’ doorsteps to ensure the program stays on track.
Our Wilmington Branch ensured Weekend Power Packs were available at Pender County Schools as families picked up their distant-learning supplies. Going forward, the shelf-stable packs of food will be delivered every-other-week via the school buses delivering daily hot breakfasts and lunches at 55 stops around the rural district. “The combination of prepared meals and food to take home and cook themselves is really helping our families,” says Aja Winstead, Alternative Learning Program Coordinator with Pender County Schools. This impactful collaboration originally formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, when our Outreach Coordinator Erin Courtney introduced Aja to the local Weekend Power Pack partners: Pender County Christian Services, Inc., Share The Table, & Wesleyan Chapel UMC. “Erin came in to help everyone sit down at the same table and talk about how to meet the needs together,” says Aja. “The food alliance built during Florence has lasted and grown.” With trusted partnerships already in place, this COVID-19 response came together quickly and naturally to nourish kids and their families.
In challenging times like these, it is important to look for the helpers and the heroes. There are national heroes, like the volunteers from the US Veterans Corps who are once again serving their country by ensuring even the most vulnerable have food to eat. Then there are the local hunger heroes, such as Wayne Gregory of The Point Church Care Center. These volunteers and retirees give their time every month and sometimes every week to pick up food from the Food Bank, bring it back to their local community, and distribute it to neighbors in need. They are continuing operations – and even expanding – in the wake of COVID-19. We could never do this important work without the helpers and heroes.
Unprecedented times call for a new way of doing things, and smart adjustment to everyone safe as we carry on the important work of nourishing neighbors in need. Louise Craig-Rorie of Mr. Fred’s Food Pantry (our local Partner Agency) together with Lakeview Missionary Baptist Church volunteers safely served 180 people from outdoor tables. They took strict precautions, keeping everyone arm’s length apart, only taking 10 people at a time, and taking breaks to wipe down. Meanwhile, Grace Outreach Enrichment Ministry (our Partner Agency) switched to a curbside distribution method, as they gave food to 87 families. Kudos to Gladys and Robert Harris for their adjustment & commitment to feeding neighbors in need. (No wonder they were our Durham Branch’s 2019 Partner Agency of Excellence!)
The work of the Food Bank and our network of local Partner Agency food pantries is essential to North Carolinians. So we remain open, sending food throughout our 34-county service area. Fliers of all sizes are posted throughout our 6 Branch locations. Everyone who enters the food bank must wash their hands – staff, volunteers, Partner Agencies, clients, visitors.
Even before schools closed, we were helping. Our Durham Branch provided 7,000 lbs of food when Louise Craig-Rorie of Mr. Fred’s at the Lake (our local Partner Agency) asked about doing a special distribution for the students at Brogden Middle School. Together with volunteers from Lakeview Missionary Baptist Church, they sent students home with fruit, dry goods, and beverages.