BOONE — In response to the recent public health threat, the High Country community is coming together like never before to ensure every individual and family has the resources needed to supply their basic needs. Part of this work is remembering and recognizing programs and organizations that are in place to support emergency food, the Second Harvest Food Bank said in an April 3 statement.
“We have a vibrant, adapting emergency food system in the High Country that is prepared and ready to meet the needs of the community, but they cannot do it alone,” explained Amanda Hege with Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC. “The key to success is collaboration and coordination on all levels.”
Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC is the primary source of food for a network of more than 470 local food assistance programs (pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and meals programs for children and seniors) throughout 18 counties in Northwest North Carolina, including Casting Bread Ministries, First Baptist Church Boone, Greenway Baptist, Hospitality House and the Hunger and Health Coalition in Watauga County.
“Our partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank and strategic collaboration with other local Second Harvest partner agencies makes for a formidable force in the fight against hunger during these unprecedented times,” said Todd Carter, director of development at Hospitality House.
“The area’s leading agencies in this work are doing all they can to ensure our region’s food assistance system remains strong in the wake of COVID-19,” Second Harvest stated. “During this time of unprecedented uncertainty and change, the food pantries are staying open and shifting their operations to continue the mission of nourishing their communities while keeping communities safe.”
Measures being taken by the agencies’ staff include providing curbside, drive-through services so that pantry visitors stay in their car and receive pre-packed food boxes; adjusted hours of operation to limit the number of cars and interactions at one time; fewer than five staff or volunteers interacting at one time, with all adhering to social distancing guidelines of more than six feet between persons; screening all staff and volunteers for potential exposure to the virus; practicing strategic cleaning procedures including sanitizing all door handles, tables, light switches, electronics, pens and surfaces after use and every hour and staff/volunteers washing their hands as required and every 30 minutes; and regularly communicating with the health department and health care agencies for guidance.
Tina Krause, the executive director of Hospitality House, said that her agency “remains steadfast in our mission, with dedicated staff working round the clock to ensure that the High Country population living in homelessness, hunger and poverty receive all available resources needed.”
“As the uncertainty due to COVID-19 continues to grow, I urge us to slow down and consider how best to pull our resources together,” said Hege. “Everyone has a place at the table in fighting hunger. So, we must continue the momentum to bring meaningful action. Whether you are in need of food, looking for ways to support your community, or are already involved, do your part in coordinating efforts.”
Hege suggested that before community members start something new, that they consider how they might donate funds, time or food to existing food pantries — which are able to purchase food at low cost.
The public can help Watauga County’s established network of emergency response agencies:
- Donate funds: Every $1 in donation to Second Harvest-affiliated agencies provides more than $5 in meals to those in need
- Donate time: Agencies are still accepting volunteers and have screening protocols in place to promote a safe volunteering environment
- Donate food: Agencies are accepting all forms of shelf-stable food in addition to fresh produce from local farms. Review the list of preferred food donation items at https://tinyurl.com/wdbpdxw. Please be sure to remember appropriate social distancing while delivering food.
“We are so deeply thankful for how our community is rallying to take care of one another. More community members than ever have stepped up to be part of the solution,” said Elizabeth Young, executive director of the Hunger and Health Coalition. “There is so much to do to prepare for this unprecedented shock to our health care system and economy, and all donations of time, resources and funds make an impact.”
“We must stem the tide of this virus; but, even more so, we must join forces to be there for each other as we get through it,” Second Harvest stated.