For over 30 years, the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina has provided food for those at risk of hunger in 34 counties in the state. The nonprofit organization serves as a link between food donors and a network of partner agencies that provide the donations to those in need.
Feeding Those in Need for 30 Years
Over half a million people struggle with hunger in the North Carolina counties served by the Food Bank. About 30% of those people are children. The elderly make up 8%. An additional 30% are people who have jobs but are unable to buy food because their income only covers necessities such as housing and medicine.
The mission of the Food Bank is to ensure No One Goes Hungry in Central & Eastern North Carolina. Last year the organization worked toward that goal by distributing a record 52 million pounds of food, or the equivalent of 43.5 million meals, to residents of the counties it serves.
How the Food Bank Works
Items are donated to the Food Bank through retailers, farmers, manufacturers and community food drives where it is stored in one of the six distribution centers in North Carolina. Donations have to be sorted and repackaged so that they can be picked up or delivered to over 800 of the partner agencies they serve in each county.
There are several types of partner agencies that use the donations in different ways. For example, food pantries provide groceries for people to take home. Soup kitchens and emergency shelters use the food to cook hot meals for people in need.
The Food Bank also addresses childhood hunger specifically through Kids Meals & More, which includes programs that provide food for at risk children after school, on the weekends and during the summer, or times when they may not otherwise get a nutritious meal. There is also a mobile food pantry, which delivers three million pounds of food a year to people in rural communities who may not be able to visit a local pantry.
How Volunteers Help
The Food Bank relies on volunteers to help process the donations so that they can be distributed to the partner agencies.
Annika Johansson, the Food Bank’s Volunteer Services Coordinator, said,
“We estimate that there are at least 15,000 volunteers annually at the Food Bank. This makes a huge difference for us because it helps us to process the food we receive to ensure that we are sending it out in good condition and in manageable quantities. Over half of the food that we distribute is handled at some stage by volunteers.”
Last year, volunteers logged over 170,000 hours, which is equivalent to over 80 full time employees.
“Having the equivalent of an additional 80 full time staff is incredible for us! It way more than doubles our warehouse work and directly affects how much food we can distribute and how fast we can get it out,” said Johansson.
Large donors, such as Food Lion, make deliveries several times a week. Over half of the donated food is meat, dairy and produce, which has a short shelf life, so it needs to be sorted and repackaged for distribution quickly.
“Having hands to sort and bag bulk produce is very important to us since those goods are perishable and have a smaller window of time before we need to distribute them,” said Johansson.
Steven Koran, an Activate Good volunteer, has volunteered monthly at the Food Bank for the past few years. Koran enjoys volunteering at the Food Bank because he believes food can bring people together. He brings along his 10-year-old daughter, Bella, because he wants to teach her the importance of giving back to the community:
“My parents were unbelievable role models that taught their children the importance of taking care of those that were less fortunate in life. The Food Bank is one of our favorite activities sponsored by Activate Good because it’s a great cause and brings families together. One of the most treasured moments in my life is sitting around a table sharing a meal with those that I love. For me – by helping at the Food Bank, I can help give what I have been given.”
How You Can Get Involved
As long as there are people at risk of hunger in central and eastern N.C., the Food Bank will be there to help lessen the hardship. This level of volunteer support is key to maintaining or growing the level of distribution at the Food Bank. Check out the volunteer opportunities with the Food Bank on Activate Good and consider donating your time to this cause.
About Activate Good
Activate Good is a nonprofit volunteer center that activates volunteers to help charitable causes in our local community. We connect individuals, groups, and companies to volunteering needs with over 200 partnering nonprofits around the Triangle. Learn more and get involved at www.activategood.org. You can also follow us on Twitter @ActivateGood, or Become a Fan on Facebook!