Just over a month ago Jennifer Woods, Outreach Coordinator for the Durham Branch of the Foodbank of Eastern and Central North Carolina, realized that she had a problem. Traditional weekly food distributions at Public Housing sites in Chapel Hill were going to be impossible to continue with all of the COVID-19 restrictions being put into place. Without those weekly food distributions, a lot of people in Chapel Hill would be going hungry.
Unwilling to let that happen, Jennifer reached out to Faith Brodie, Public Housing Director for the Town of Chapel Hill and asked her “what do you think the possibility is of us still having the distributions but having them as drive-through distributions where people could come have a box of food placed in their trunk?” Brodie thought the idea was a good one, but the logistics of setting up and staffing a drive-through delivery system had to be worked through. Enter PORCH.
Jennifer got in touch with Elizabeth Dicker from PORCH-Hillsborough who connected her with Debbie Horwitz from PORCH Chapel Hill-Carrboro, and from there, Debbie, Faith, and Jennifer figured out how to set up and staff weekly drive-through food distributions using Food Bank food resources, Town of Chapel Hill site resources, and PORCH volunteer resources. Or as Faith Brodie put it, “a dynamo of three women from diverse backgrounds began to work together to help feed as many Orange County residents as expressed a desire to receive food.”
The first drive-through distribution occurred three weeks ago on Wednesday, March 25th at the Hargraves Center. As Jennifer Woods described it, “we had the Food Bank deliver the food, and we spaced pallets far enough apart that we could create packing lanes on both sides, and then we packed boxes with food. We had the police come out and handle traffic, and we literally did a drive through where people would pull up, tell us how many people are in their household, then we’d record the data and put the box or boxes in their trunk and they’d drive off.” During that first distribution, 113 households representing 432 people were served by this combined effort.
The second drive-through distribution was at the Chapel Hill Community Center on Wednesday, April 1st, and volunteers served 155 families representing 800 people. This past Wednesday, the distribution was at the Chapel Hill Public Library and the distribution served 355 households, representing 1,538 individuals. The need is currently so great, that PORCH was able to arrange with Two Men and a Truck to generously volunteer to drive an extra load of food to the distribution site this past week.
When asked how people can help support the ongoing efforts to combat hunger in our community, Jennifer Woods said that, “actually, honestly, monetary donations can go a lot farther, but food donations are also definitely welcome. During this time we are committed to serving those in need for the long haul. And we are doing what we can to protect everyone concerned. I am so thankful to PORCH and all of your volunteers. We are very, very pleased and excited about the results, and it couldn’t have happened without all these groups coming together!”
Food distributions are available to anyone in need. You do not need to sign up in advance or present ID. The next three distributions will take place at the Chapel Hill Public Library on:
Wednesday April 15 from 10:00 – 12:30
Wednesday, April 22 from 1:00 – 3:30
Wednesday, April 29 from 10:00 – 12:30