WATAUGA COUNTY — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, several charitable food pantries are changing their hours due to the demand.

The Hunger and Health Coalition is moving to new hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, starting Monday, March 30.

“Everyone feels as though this is the best step we can take moving forward,” Hunger and Health Coalition Executive Director Elizabeth Young stated on March 27. “Please note that our team will be hard at work onsite at the Hunger and Heath Coalition Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 4:30, packing boxes, working in food recovery, filling bags of produce and filling much-needed prescriptions.”

Young said in the email that the organization’s long-term volunteers have said they won’t return until “a sense of normalcy returns statewide.”

“The impact of this means that most all of our staff has converted to working the front lines almost exclusively,” Young’s March 27 statement said. “The few volunteers that remain are getting burnt out and the energy of our staff is waning.”

The Hunger and Health Coalition will offer curbside service on fresh produce and other perishables and to-go meals. Families can get food boxes twice a month.

Anita Wilson, director of operations for the Hunger and Health Coalition, said that 2,293 people, including 961 families, had been served between March 9 and 27.

During the same period of 2019, Wilson said that 1,921 people, including 818 families, were served.

Despite the pandemic, Wilson said that the March 2020 numbers are a little bit lower than the February 2020 numbers. Wilson said it was hard to say why the numbers were different.

Going forward, Wilson said she anticipates the need to rise in the coming weeks.

“We feel like we’re not even in the middle of this yet,” Wilson said. “People run out of vacation time and run out of savings.”

The Casting Bread Food Pantry, part of FaithBridge United Methodist Church, is still doing curbside food orders on Wednesdays and Thursdays, but has closed its indoor café, including soup kitchen operations, coffee and restrooms.

The café is closed through the end of April, and staff will re-evaluate at that time, according to Executive Director Sam Garrett.

“The need today is greater than ever,” Garrett said. “We need to communicate that we are open and invite folks in need to come get food. If you are out of work and need food for a week, a month or until you return to work, come get food. We also need donations of food and resources to meet the increased need.”

Garrett said that on Thursday, March 19, Casting Bread supplied for more households than ever before and said that more people are donating and volunteering.

The Hospitality House of Northwest N.C. changed its food pantry hours to 12-4 p.m., seven days a week, effective April 1.

“As we continue to balance the needs of High Country families, students and individuals facing homelessness and food insecurity with the reality of operating a 24-hour-a-day agency during a pandemic, we needed to make these adjustments,” Hospitality House Executive Director Tina B. Krause stated.

The Hospitality House’s community kitchen continues to serve three meals a day, seven days a week in takeout containers to anyone not residing at Hospitality House. The food pantry will continue operating using it’s previously announced drive-thru and prepackaged protocol.

If you wish to help in other ways, email Denise Presnell at presnelld@wataugaschools.org.

School take and go meals

Lunch and a packed breakfast for the next day will be served at Bethel, Mabel, Green Valley, Valle Crucis and Watauga High schools from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each of the days that schools are closed for students.

Dinner and breakfast for the next day will be served at Hardin Park School and Brushy Fork Baptist Church, located at 3915 U.S. 421 North in Vilas, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. each of the days school is closed for students.

All children 18 and younger may get free meals at these sites regardless of where they live or attend school in Watauga County. Meals will be similar to what students receive from a normal school lunch/breakfast and will include items like sandwiches, vegetables and salads along with milk, fruit and juice.

More food pickup locations

  • Alliance Bible Fellowship, located at 1035 N.C 105 Bypass, Boone, is opening a food pantry on Mondays from 3-5 p.m. The program is for N.C. residents only, one box per month per family/house.
  • Blowing Rock C.A.R.E.S. at Rumple Memorial, located at 1218 Main St., Blowing Rock, will have its food pantry open 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Mondays. For more information about Rumple Memorial in Blowing Rock, email scoblehankins@gmail.com.
  • Boone United Methodist Church, located at 471 New Market Blvd., Boone, will have to-go meals and food boxes on Thursdays from 5-6:30 p.m.
  • Casting Bread Food Pantry, located at 194 Aho Road, Blowing Rock, is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for drive-thru food pickup. Families can get food boxes twice a month.
  • First Presbyterian Church, located at 131 Big Valley St., Boone, is offering food boxes on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Greenway Baptist Church, located at 880 Greenway Road, Boone, is offering food boxes on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • Hardin Park School, located at 361 Jefferson Road, Boone, is offering food boxes from 1-3 p.m. on Thursdays (in addition to the dinner and breakfast take-and-go meals provided every school day from 4-6 p.m.)
  • High Country United Church of Christ, located at 8235 U.S. 421 North, Vilas, is having food boxes on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on Mondays from 5:15-7 p.m.
  • Hospitality House, located at 338 Brook Hollow Road, Boone, is serving meals three times a day (6:30-8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5:30-6:30 p.m.). In addition, the food pantry is open seven days a week from 12-4 p.m. with a limit of two pickups a month.
  • Hunger and Health Coalition, located at 141 Health Center Drive, Boone, is offering curb-side service from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.. Monday through Friday. Fresh produce and other perishables and to go meals once a week. Families can get food boxes twice a month. Diapers, free baby formula, and baby wipes for Watauga County residents only.
  • Mount Vernon Baptist Church, located at 3505 Bamboo Road, Boone, has food boxes available. Call (828) 266-9700 for more details.
  • Parkway Elementary School, located at 160 Parkway School Drive, Boone, has food boxes from 1-3 p.m. on Tuesdays.
  • theHeart Church, located at 191 Howard Street, Boone, is offering food boxes on Wednesdays from 1-4 p.m.
  • The Rock, located at 215 Boone Heights Drive, Unit 301, Boone, is offering food boxes and school supplies from 5-7 p.m. on Wednesdays and Sundays.
  • Western Watauga Food Outreach is moving its Thursday 4-6 p.m. food bag distribution to Henson’s Chapel United Methodist Church at 120 Henson Hollar Road, Vilas.

Food assistance hotline

Gov. Roy Cooper announced March 27 that parents who need food assistance for their children can text FOODNC to 877-877 to locate nearby free meal sites. The texting service is also available in Spanish by texting COMIDA to 877-877.

After entering their address, parents will receive a text with the location and serving times for nearby pick-up and drive-thru free meal sites while schools are closed. Sites have been set up across the state for families with children ages 18 and younger, including preschool children, who rely on free and reduced-price meals at school.

“School closings mean no meals for some of our most vulnerable children. Now families have an easier way to find food during these times of financial stress,” Cooper said.

Parents can also call 2-1-1 to speak with an operator who will help them locate meal sites in their community. The 2-1-1 service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Services are provided in English, Spanish and many other languages.

Additionally, No Kid Hungry has created a map of local school sites, community organizations and food assistance programs across North Carolina where families can access food. The interactive map can be viewed at nokidhungrync.org/covid19/ and is updated daily.

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