BOONE — After launching in April and having three total donation pickups since, organizers with the A Simple Gesture program at the Hunger and Health Coalition have set a goal to double its donation intake.
A Simple Gesture is a food drive initiative that encourages community members and organizations to add an extra non-perishable item to be donated to HHC’s food pantry while grocery shopping. Every two months, donors can place the bags of food outside the home or business for pickup by HHC volunteers.
HHC hired Jenn Bass in early September as the program director of A Simple Gesture. As a graduate student at Appalachian State University, Bass said she served as an intern at the organization and became invested in the ASG program.
“It helps people to not worry about where their next meal will come from,” Bass said. “Our (client) numbers are increasingly growing and we want to help as many people as we can.”
So far, about 350 to 400 individuals, businesses and organizations have signed up to donate through the ASG program. About 30 volunteer drivers and 40 to 50 sorters help with the pickup and drop off process each session. The pickups have averaged about 10,000 pounds of food — which only sustains the food pantry for about five days, according to Bass.
For this reason, Bass has set the goal to increase the donation intake to 20,000 for the next two ASG pickup days in 2019. The last two pickup days for the year are scheduled for Oct. 26 and Dec. 7, and then the program will begin again in 2020.
“The food is there, we just have to figure out a way to bring it in and distribute it to our clients,” Bass said. “The more we grow, the more our shelves stay stocked and the more people we can help.”
Food items people can donate to HHC include tuna, canned vegetables, canned beans, rice, cereal, oatmeal, pasta, peanut butter, pasta sauces, mac and cheese and soup.
Not only would the additional donations keep the food pantry stocked, it would also alleviate financial stress from HHC. Bass said the ASG program could save the organization roughly $80,000 a year, as it wouldn’t need to purchase as much from the Second Harvest Food Bank. The money saved could help HHC spend funds in other areas like its BackPack Program that provides food for school children on the weekends.
ASG organizers have conducted presentations to organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse to increase participation. In addition to the boost in donations, Bass said HHC is hoping to bring on additional donors, and maybe host friendly competitions between organizations, businesses or schools who participate in the program.