The Greater Outer Banks has one of the highest percentages in North Carolina of people who deal every day with food insecurity. 41,850 residents, 16 percent of our population, lives with hunger. Nearly one-in-four of our children.
For the last four decades, the Food Bank of the Albemarle has been fighting food insecurity in northeast North Carolina.
Executive Director Liz Reasoner is our guest for this edition of Builders and Shapers of the Greater Outer Banks, to share how they aggressively work so that no person should sacrifice food for basic necessities such as shelter, heat and medicine.
Who do you serve, and how?
We are your regional food bank serving hunger relief partners in fifteen counties in northeast North Carolina. We partner with 100 nonprofit and faith based organizations to feed our neighbors.
In several parts of the Greater Outer Banks, we are the only human service organization that serve the community.
When and why was your nonprofit created?
We were incorporated in 1982 when our nation was faced with high unemployment during record breaking recession, when a group of concerned citizens organized a meeting.
This first gathering, chaired by Pasquotank County Commissioner Bill Owens, was to discuss the need and process of setting up a food bank.
With the efforts of 20 area churches, dozens of local businesses, and the Elizabeth City Foundation, enough funds, food and labor were donated to get the project off the ground.
Then called the Albemarle Food Bank and Food Pantry, Inc., the Food Bank was located in a small warehouse at the southern end of Elizabeth City.
With founding director Deborah Fox at the helm, the Food Bank distributed approximately 133,882 meals around the 10 counties in northeast North Carolina that it served during the first three years of operation.
Since those early days, the Food Bank of the Albemarle has distributed approximately 46 million meals to the hungry men, women and children across the region. Over 56 million pounds of food have passed through our hands to someone in need.
What are some of the benefits of your organization’s work?
The immediate benefit is that we connect neighbors struggling with hunger to the nutritional food they need. We also work with our hunger partner network to connect people to additional resources like food stamps, utility assistance, housing and nutrition education.
A benefit that is often overlooked is the opportunity to work with retail partners and farmers to donate perfectly good food to help feed people.
Lots of food never gets harvested so we work with farmers to develop cost effective ways to get white potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, corn, squash, and melons donated.
In fact, last year over two million pounds of locally grown produce was directed to Food Bank of the Albemarle to feed the community.
Do you think the issues you address will ever go away? Why or why not?
We live for the day that we are no longer needed.
Sadly, we are an aging society the outlook is that more of the population in our region will live on fixed incomes. Our senior population will develop medical conditions.
Seniors have limited financial means which means that they must rely on the social programs to make ends meet.
They will have to choose between medicine or food. We want to make sure that no one has to give up or cut their medications to eat.
What else would you like readers to know (perhaps an interesting insight or heartwarming story)?
We believe that everyone should have access to enough healthy food to thrive but we also know that people are struggling to make ends meet right now.
Grocery, gas and housing costs have increased for everyone. These rising costs disproportionately affect people in the lowest socio-economic group. We are here to help our neighbors through these tough times.
We are also focused on providing foods that are nutritionally sound or value.
In a survey of our neighbors in 2021, we asked which foods they appreciated most? They said resoundingly that we appreciate the fresh fruit and vegetables.
We regularly ask for comments from patrons that come out for service. Below is on response from a recent mobile food distribution in Hertford, where we spoke with Mrs. Faye.
She drives a school bus part-time and works a second job in the evening when her kids go to bed.
“My family is able to have healthier choices because my food stamps only last 2 weeks. The mobile food pantry helps my family eat healthier because we can get fresh vegetables and chicken. I don’t know what we would do if we didn’t have the mobile food pantry”.
What’s new? What are your upcoming events or initiatives?
Dine Out to help out is our partnership with the restaurants. Participating restaurants donate 10% of the days sales to fight hunger. Dine Out week is June 5 to June 11.
Participating restaurants are listed on our website at www.afoodbank.org. 96.5% of every dollar supports food bank programs feeding our neighbors.
For more information on the Food Bank of the Albemarle:
In conjunction with the Outer Banks Community Foundation and the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, WOBX has launched “Builders and Shapers: Nonprofits for a Greater Outer Banks” a weekly series featuring the nonprofits that serve our area. They share details about how they are working to make northeastern North Carolina and the Outer Banks a better place to live, work and play.