Eastern North Carolina Food Bank sees huge spike in donations, needs volunteers
By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector
Monday, December 11, 2017
The holiday spirit has prompted many local residents to share Christmas bounty with the Food Bank of Eastern and Central North Carolina.
Now food bank officials are looking for people willing to share a little of their time to make sure meals get into the hands of those who need them.
The organization partners with pantries, soup kitchens and other organizations to provide meals to food-insecure families across eastern North Carolina.
Representatives have been busy traveling around their service area — including Kinston, Moorehead City, New Bern, and Jacksonville — to collect donations as part of a “Share Your Christmas” promotional drive. On Thursday, the food bank truck rolled into the parking lot of the Food Lion off of Fire Tower Road in Greenville.
Food Lion represents one of the drive’s biggest donors, officials said. The supermarket chain orders boxes for its outlets that contain the store’s brand spaghetti, tomato sauce, green beans, chicken noodle soup, peanut butter and macaroni and cheese. The boxes are sold by the Food Lion for $5, and donated to the food bank prepackaged, so the bank does not have to use volunteer hours inspecting and packaging the donations. This year, several locations sold out of the boxes, and began selling pallets of store-brand canned goods for the same price.
George Young, eastern regional director of the food bank, said early tallies show the organization’s holiday drive has seen a large uptick in donations.
Last year, he said, the equivalent of 44,000 meals were collected. So far this year, the organization has collected 57,961 meals, not including donations from New Bern, which were not expected to be counted until this morning. New Bern saw the greatest number of donations last year, so expectations for the total amount of meals is high, according to Young. In total so far, the bank has collected some 54,320 pounds of food for the holiday season.
David Garris, who works as a director of operations for Food Lion’s Greenville Market and also works with the food bank’s council, said he is betting on the total donations doubling last year’s numbers. Garris said he personally donates to the food bank because each dollar goes further in helping those in need.
According to members of the organization and literature passed out at events, 97 cents of each donated dollar goes directly to food and food programs, with only three cents being reserved for administrative costs and fundraising. Additionally, each dollar donated provides five meals to families, or the equivalent of $10 of food.
Mary Carl Fisher, food resource coordinator for the Greenville branch of the food bank, said the charity’s service area has more than 145,000 individuals who live in food-insecure households. She said they partner with more than hundred pantries, soup kitchens, and other programs to serve that need.
The “Share your Christmas” drive was co-partnered with News Channel 12, which traveled with the food bank and advertised its efforts throughout its on-air segments. Garris said the publicity — combined with their now three-year-old tradition of bringing the drive to several set locations — is the reason for the higher number of donations.
“We’ve now got three years in a row that we’ve used the exact same sites, so the communities know where to go, they know where we’ll be, because it’s the exact same as last year,” Garris said. “I think the other thing though, is these Food Lion store managers really go hard after it, they order more boxes and more food every year to help their communities. So I think those folks have made a big difference.”
Brittanie Frieze, volunteer services coordinator for the bank, said the need for volunteers is especially high in this holiday season because of the various promotions, and large increase in donations received.
She said in the last year volunteers donated 21,530 hours of work, but the bank can never have too many helpers.
Frieze said now that the organization has amassed so much food through its drive, workers have to check all of the donations according to Feeding America standards, then sort it appropriately. She said though the Food Lion boxes make this process quicker, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
“There is always a great demand for more volunteers; it doubles our staff power, she said. “The Greenville branch only has a staff of seven, New Bern has three, so we rely heavily on volunteers to sort through all this.”
She said interested individuals should contact her at 752-4996, and that the food bank can find a way for anybody to help.
Contact Seth Gulledge at Sgulledge@reflector.com and 329-9579. Follow him on Twitter @GulledgeSeth