Food pantries ramp up to help in pandemic

Home Virus Food pantries ramp up to help in pandemic

By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer •
On a hot July morning this week, volunteers wearing face masks sat in the backs of SUVs, trucks and station wagons pulled up to the shade of a wooden shelter, chatting and listening to music as they waited for a truck full of food to arrive. If not for the masks, it could have been any typical day for the volunteers of Avery’s Chapel Church on Loop Road in Hoke County. The church established its food pantry in 2002, and ever since has given away boxes of food to help those in need in the western part of the county. But since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, food pantry organizers have seen a rise in the need among families in the area. Normally in a month’s time, the Avery’s Chapel Church food pantry feeds about 1,200 to 1,300 people, organizer Shakera Graham said. “It’s gone monthly that (See FOOD, page 6) amount, to weekly,” she said. The trucks have been rolling for months, bringing in deliveries of fresh, frozen, and nonperishable food. The delivery this week was from Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina’s Sandhills branch. The Avery’s Chapel food pantry also works in partnership with the Moore County food bank. The increased need appears to be due at least in part to people losing work because of the pandemic, food pantry director Geneva Gillis said. Gillis was on the distribution site Monday helping coordinate the food delivery. Not only did the volunteers hand out boxes of food, they also loaded up boxes to deliver to people who couldn’t make it to the site. Elderly residents who can’t leave their homes, mothers with children who don’t have transportation and others who are considered homebound are among those who receive the food boxes. Advisory board chairman Rusty Disney and a group of 10 volunteers were helping to make sure the food distribution from Avery’s Chapel Church food pantry went smoothly. Gillis explained the setup. “What we’re going to do is, we register everybody. We will go to that car, see how many families they’re going to feed. We’ll load that car or have them load it,” she said. “Usually I don’t like for them to touch it because that’s cross contamination. Usually what we do is, we’ll load that car and send it on the way, pull up the next car.” Other Hoke County churches that have food pantries, and nonprofit organizations look to be seeing the same need in the community. At Raeford United Methodist Church, volunteers on July 23 distributed 90 boxes full of 24 pounds each of fruits and vegetables. Noonday Kitchen, in partnership with a larger food bank, distributed about 2,400 boxes of fresh food to Hoke residents. Open Door Soup Kitchen, a local and long-running effort to feed the hungry, continues serving meals and helping people with groceries. Gillis said the need has stepped up “90 percent,” and now includes people who previously were employed, but are struggling due to losing work. “We’re seeing more and more of that,” she said. Avery’s Chapel Church food pantry, like other organizations, is accepting monetary donations to help support the mission of feeding the hungry. For more information or to donate, contact the church or call the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina Sandhills branch at 692-5959.

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