By Catharin Shepard •
Staff writer •
A nonprofit organization from Cumberland County has stepped in to help Hoke families suffering hard times receive groceries during the coronavirus emergency.
Noonday Kitchen set up a temporary local headquarters in the Raeford Civic Center a few weeks ago, with the blessing of the city council and City Manager Dennis Baxley.
“They were just so gracious and excited about what we wanted to do, which was have a location in Hoke County that would allow us to distribute meals to Hoke County,” Noonday Kitchen Director of Programs Anna Drewry said.
So far the group has delivered about 350 bags of groceries and a few household items to over 100 families in Hoke County. The organization plans to repeat the distribution at least twice more this month, providing food for upwards of 400 families, Drewry said.
“We’ve been able to partner with Sysco Food, Second Harvest (Food Bank), Angel’s Kitchen and other community leaders and business owners to provide the products for them to package in grocery bags, and then go out and find effective ways of distributing these bags,” she said.
The organization worked with local service agencies to identify families that need food assistance. Many families are facing unemployment or loss of work hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Noonday Kitchen operates “whenever we see a need that is around food scarcity or food insecurity in Cumberland, Hoke – anywhere where we see it where we can effectively meet that need,” according to the programs director.
A mother and daughter team, Claudia Perez and Sophia Perez of Fayetteville, founded Noonday Kitchen after Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Florence. They saw how much people struggled in the aftermath of those storms and wanted to find a way to help.
“Claudia noticed when all these hurricanes come through, people are displaced and don’t have a way to get food,” Drewry said.
The Perez family started Angel’s Kitchen in Fayetteville, and Noonday Kitchen grew out of that project to help serve a wider number of people. The 501c3 registered nonprofit launched in November 2019.
Noonday Kitchen is currently focused on helping meet needs in Hoke County due to the coronavirus. The group wanted to reach out to under-served areas to provide support.
Organizers with the nonprofit also plan to launch a food truck to provide hot meals.
“We’re in the process of building a food truck. It will have the ability to produce hundreds of hot meals within hours,” Drewry said. That way the organization can more effectively mobilize and provide hot meals as well as bags of groceries.
Noonday Kitchen also plans to partner this summer with Hoke County Schools and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service program to offer breakfast and lunch to children up to age 18. The nonprofit’s food truck could potentially help solve a problem for the program, which is typically based at local schools in June, July and August.
“What the social workers find is a lot of their students who really rely on those meals don’t have a way of getting to the schools that feed them,” Drewry said. The nonprofit’s food truck could be a mobile way of providing those meals in different parts of the community over the summer.
The organization is still accepting money donations to help further its efforts. They’ve had to stop accepting nonperishable food donations for the moment due to concerns over spreading COVID-19, Drewry said.
“In order to stay as clean and healthy as we can have stopped taking food donations, but will take financial donations,” she said. Local donations will stay right here in the community, Drewry added.
“Anything given in Hoke County will stay in Hoke County,” she said.
The easiest way to donate to Noonday Kitchen is online through the group’s website, noondaykitchen.org.