Food Bank focuses on rising demand

Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Squeezed by rising food prices that have slowed donations of food, and by rising demand for food from shelters, soup kitchens and food pantries, the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina has launched several initiatives to get more food to hungry people.

“For the past year, donations have not been increasing at the rate we need,” says Nan Holbrook Griswold, executive director. “We cannot keep up with the pace of the need.”

One of over 200 members of the America’s Second Harvest network, the Winston-Salem-based food bank expects this year to deliver nine million pounds of food and other items to its partner agencies, the same as last year and three million pounds short of the total it had projected it would deliver.

Food donations are down from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which must pay farmers more for the food it donates through its emergency food assistance program, and from grocery chains like Harris Teeter, Food Lion, Lowes Foods and Wal-Mart, Griswold says.

Yet food pantries the Food Bank surveyed say they have seen increases over the past year ranging from 30 percent to 108 percent in the number of clients they serve each month.

Now, thanks to a start-up donation by Harris Teeter of food worth $15,000, plus a donation of $55,000 from America’s Second Harvest, the Food Bank is launching a pilot program that will let its partner agencies purchase food at its warehouse in addition to picking up donated food.

The pilot program will supplement a $3 million program state lawmakers have funded in recent years that provides $500,000 for each of six food banks in the state to
purchase food.

And for the second year, the Food Bank is partnering with grocery chains for a drive in June to increase the food available during the summer to families whose children during the school year are eligible for school breakfasts and lunches that are free or offered at a reduced price.

In Forsyth County last summer, a federal program fed only 2,500 of 24,000 children who were eligible for those meals.

“We have a long ways to go,” Griswold says.

In June, shoppers at Harris Teeter, Lowes Foods and Wal-Mart can donate canned goods and other items for the summer program, or buy Food Bank gift cards.

The program last summer generated 21,000 pounds of food and other items for partner agencies picking up food from the Food Bank.

The Food Bank also has created a memorial fund to buy cutlery sets for students graduating from its Triad Community Kitchen program.

Launched in November 2006 to produce food through the cook-chill method that can be reheated by shelters and food pantries, the community kitchen also offers a free 10-week culinary program that trains people who face economic challenges.

The kitchen, which will prepare 70,000 pounds of food this year, has trained 86 people in its first 18 months, including 11 who graduated June 2.

Each of those 11 graduates received a knife kit and case that were purchased with funds from the Megan Hauser Tools for Success Alumni Cutlery Program.

The program, a fund created by Gary and Ginger Hauser in memory of their daughter, Megan, who had planned to attend culinary school but died in April at age 32, already has received $4,000 in contributions.

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