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Feeding McDowell: Local pantries face crisis amidst shortage
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Feeding McDowell: Local pantries face crisis amidst shortage

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While urgency and panic compel many residents to stock pantries in lieu of possible “Shelter-In-Place” or extended Stay-At-Home orders, limitations on supplies and access cause new challenges to non-profits and local food pantry operations.

“Unfortunately, we’re just not able to fill community need with the current limitations in place,” said Director Heather Edwards regarding the resupply of pantry inventory for Foothills Food Hub.

New restrictions at many retail grocery stores limit the amount of goods purchased by a single entity. While the benefit to this ensures residents can confidently shop and get the goods they need for their families, families and households that don’t have the means to obtain food or supplies are left without.

Here in McDowell County, grocery stores have put in place rules regarding the quantity of canned goods, bread, fresh foods, and basic necessities. At the same time, local groups working together through the McDowell Cares collaboration are facing an increased workload and need in the community as other food pantries close. Foothills Food Hub has taken on the incredible responsibility of providing for two additional communities in the past two weeks. McDowell County isn’t alone. Throughout western North Carolina, food pantries are either closing or having to cut the amount they can provide for their communities.

“We’re working with other agencies throughout the region that have expressed similar restrictions,” said Edwards. “We’ve never faced this type of dilemma before, and I think we’re all trying our best to ensure food access to everyone.”

With regional food banks like MANNA Food Bank in Asheville stretched thin, many non-profits rely on grants to supplement what bi-weekly food truck deliveries provide. As such, additional expenses (driving to multiple grocery stores, volunteer work to purchase groceries) diminish the available funding.

“Right now, we could benefit from anyone that can donate...or help us with purchasing larger quantities of food without impacting local residents ability to shop,” said Edwards. “Donations allow us to fill the gap in boxes needed to feed our county. Finding a way to purchase in bulk allows us to spend less time searching for food and more time serving the community.”

She went on to explain finding solutions that allow local non-profits to purchase in bulk would allow the Foothills Food Hub and partnering agencies to supply the 1,000 food boxes needed in the next couple weeks.

On Tuesday, April 7, McDowell Local Food Advisory Council/Foothills Food Hub, partnered with McDowell Access to Care and Health (MATCH), hosted an open drive-through food pantry at East Marion Pentecostal Holiness Church. Volunteers were sourced through the McDowell Cares collaboration. The food pantry, which was a first-come, first-serve event, opened a half hour earlier than expected (10:35 a.m.). Within an hour, the Food Hub had exhausted nearly 95% of the available food boxes. Edwards indicated that as the month of April progresses, Tuesday’s event is only a foreshadowing of the weeks’ ahead. Should the North Carolina shutdown extend, it’s very likely that more food will be needed, in much larger quantities.

The Foothills Food Hub and McDowell Access To Care and Health plan to host open food pantries at East Marion PHC today at 11 a.m. and Dysartsville Christian Ministries Food Pantry on Thursday, April 16 at 3 p.m. For more information and pantry locations, be sure to follow the Food Hub on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FoothillsFoodHub/

If you would like to donate or volunteer, contact McDowell Cares at: www.mcdowellcares.com. Alternately, you can reach Heather Edwards at heather@foothillsfoodhub.org.

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