Over the past 12 months, Foothills Food Hub faced an unprecedented challenge: supporting the growing food needs of a county under pandemic lockdown.
Through community partnerships, donations and countless volunteer hours, the Food Hub distributed close to 1.5 million pounds of food to those in need. Volunteer efforts helped feed more than 35,000 households (or nearly 150,000 individuals served since the Food Hub started recording numbers in April 2020). As a part of our #LoveTheHub campaign, the Foothills Food Hub would like to recognize some of the amazing teams, groups, and individuals that supported the hub through volunteer work in a Volunteer Spotlight.
Volunteer Spotlight: Crystal Ledbetter
Crystal Ledbetter, McDowell County resident.
How did you first get involved with the Foothills Food Hub?
In September of 2019, I began volunteering at the bi-monthly food box packing events. This involved packing boxes for different organizations in McDowell County to distribute.
What is your first memory or most memorable experience volunteering for the Foothills Food Hub?
I have had a lot of memorable experiences, but the ones that stick out the most would be when I volunteer at the distribution sites. Meeting and speaking with the community members we are serving is very gratifying.
What has surprised you most about working with the Hub to address hunger in McDowell County?
The immense numbers of fellow community members who live daily with food insecurity and inequality. To see members of my community, people I know or have gotten to know face food insecurity has truly impacted me.
What do you find to be most challenging about addressing hunger in McDowell County?
Educating other community members about the fact that we have a huge population in the county that has limited or uncertain access to adequate healthy food. Also, changing the preconceived idea that those seeking food assistance are a certain socioeconomic group.
What is one thing you wish more people knew about Foothills Food Hub?
I wish people knew the sheer numbers of community members helped by the Hub during the COVID pandemic, even monthly distribution numbers are eye-opening. For instance, I think it would be sobering to share that during the initial pandemic crisis, Hub volunteers and staff distributed over 3,000 boxes a month.
Why is supporting Foothills Food Hub to address hunger in McDowell County important to you?
Supporting the Hub is important because food insecurity or inequality in our community erodes the overall health foundation of our community. When a family or individual cannot afford enough nutritious food it leads to health issues or worsens already pre-existing health conditions. This puts an additional burden on the individual, our health care systems, our education systems, our public assistance systems and so on. Hunger is systemic: it creates a ripple which affects the entire community.
What's your personal philosophy on how communities can work together to address hunger?
First, as a whole, communities need to take the stance that access to healthy, nutritious food is a right that all citizens should have. Then, I think there are many layers to addressing hunger in communities. You need personal one-on-one connections, creating a safe space, meeting individuals with a smiling face and showing dignity when they need supplemental food assistance. We need to change the preconceived idea that those seeking food assistance are a certain socioeconomic group. We need individuals, community groups, educational institutions, religious groups, corporations and government agencies all working cohesively on a common goal of food access for all.
When your friends/family find out that you volunteer, what do they say or ask?
What exactly do you do? How often do you volunteer? Is it hard work?
Tell us about someone or something that influenced your decision to work with the Food Hub.
I was taught that if you have either time or means to help another person you should. Especially when someone is most vulnerable because you may need the same support one day.
Do you have any goals, aspirations, or suggestions for the Foothills Food Hub as we work to continue addressing food issues in McDowell County?
I would love to see the collaborations between local farmers and the Hub continue to expand! The goal of the Hub is to improve the local food systems, that includes farmers, local businesses and those working in the various food-related industries in the region.
Do you have any advice for someone that's thinking about or is interested in signing up to volunteer?
I would tell them to give what time and energy they can to the Food hub. Even if it is only an hour or two a month. It all adds up and helps!