Second Harvest Food Bank Celebrating Forty Years

All our lives, and our community, too, are made better when everyone is able to access the food they need to live their healthiest, best life — free from hunger.

Forty years ago this month, Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC officially opened its doors to accept its very first donation of food – 3,000 hot dog buns from Jones Bakery left over from a grand opening celebration of Piedmont Triad International Airport.

From humble beginnings in the early 1980s, Second Harvest Food Bank, originally known as the Food Bank of Northwest NC, has become a strong and vital regional hub and leading advocate for food secure, healthy communities across the 18 counties it serves.

Over 40 years, Second Harvest Food Bank has grown from addressing the immediate needs of families facing food insecurity to innovating and collaborating around strategies and approaches that work to address the challenges driving the need for food assistance in the first place.

Healthy Lives, Healthy Communities

The history of Second Harvest is built on a commitment to two core beliefs: Food insecurity is unacceptable, and everyone deserves to eat. The organization’s ever-growing community of donors, volunteers, advocates, and champions who support the organization with their time, expertise, and food and financial gifts, is, as Food Bank leaders often note, “a vote for the kind of community we want to create and live in together.”

Food is foundational, after all, to everything else we do – to a child’s development and ability to be successful in learning and play; to a mother’s ability to be productive at work and present for her children; to a senior’s ability to maintain their health and live an active life.

With strong and sustained community support, in just the past few years, Second Harvest has achieved tremendous results that have both short- and long-term benefits for our community and region. Following are just a few of the many examples:

More Fresh Foods

Through its most recent fiscal year, Second Harvest distributed 4.7 million pounds of fresh produce to more than 515 partner food assistance programs that rely on the Food Bank for most of the food they provide to families in their community. Through expansion of the Food Bank’s cold storage capacity and relationships with grocery partners and area farmers, Second Harvest has enhanced its ability to get fresh foods to where they are needed most.

Healthy, Prepared Meals Delivered

The expansion of this ready-to-eat meals program has been a game changer for the organization, which is partnering with a growing number of summer and afterschool programs for children, as well as Meals on Wheels programs and meal initiatives at senior centers. Between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022, the Community Meals Program prepared and delivered over a half million meals to supplement the nutritional needs of children and seniors.

Pandemic Response

Thanks to the tremendous support of the community, Second Harvest’s team never wavered in its mission. Through the challenges faced by families dealing with economic and health uncertainties, the organization adapted to a new environment almost overnight. Many of the practices learned during the pandemic remain in place, as Second Harvest continues its mission and work in the face of a continuing, quiet storm of challenges and uncertainty.

What’s Happening Today?

Amid on-going news coverage of the inflationary environment, Second Harvest leaders want to be clear and transparent about very real challenges these circumstances are presenting our nation’s food banks, including Second Harvest, and, much more importantly, so many families, seniors, and others with limited resources. Multiple forces are coming together to create a threatening situation with impacts to the health and well-being of families and our community.

There is a sustained, high need for food assistance in our communities. Supply chain challenges continue to impact donations, and government assistance programs provided to the Food Bank and families during the height of the pandemic are set to fully expire this month. Second Harvest is bracing for a loss of 4 to 5 million pounds of food from government sources to our area. At the same time, inflation, including increased costs for basic living expenses (housing, fuel, and food) that affect low-resourced families disproportionately, is impacting both the number of individuals seeking assistance and the Food Bank’s ability to purchase food at the same levels it has in the past.

These circumstances are a call to action to our community for sustained faith in and support of Second Harvest’s vital work. In the next month or so, Food Bank operations will be moving to a new headquarters in Whitaker Park. This publication will be sharing a lot more about what the move will mean to the organization’s ability to bring heightened creativity and innovation to the persistent, related challenges of poverty and hunger in our community in next month’s issue.

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