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July 25, 2014

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FaithBridge Food Pantry volunteer Sylvia Coffey organizers fresh vegetables donated by
members of the Watauga County Farmer’s Market.

Originally published: 2013-10-17 10:32:22
Last modified: 2013-10-17 10:33:07

Heeding the need to feed

The government shutdown of the past two-and-a-half weeks has created a growing uncertainty about services the federal government directly provides to people, and about those that are administered at the state and local level. 

Among those local organizations reliant on state and federal assistance are the various pantries that distribute food—as well as other needed items—to the most vulnerable people in our community. 

FaithBridge Food Pantry

“We’ve seen 20 people come by the food pantry today so far,” said Susan Stutts, director at the food pantry at FaithBridge Methodist Church, located on Aho Rd. in Blowing Rock last Friday. “We saw 37 yesterday and 50 on Wednesday. Our stock is pretty low. We still have not received our TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) government food this month. And we usually receive our SNAP (State Nutritional Assistance Program) food twice a month. But we have not received it in a month.” 

According to Stutts, those two programs provide much of the essential foods, such as canned goods and dry goods, which the pantry distributes to clients from Watauga and surrounding counties. 

“That’s where we are now,” said Stutts. “When you run a food pantry, it’s either feast or famine, mainly because of government assistance. If they are doing okay, and we can order what we want to, things run smoothly. But if we are limited, then we do our best to keep what we have on hand on our shelves, whether it be flour, black-eyed peas or canned vegetables.” 

According to Stutts, one of the pantry’s big helping hands that is about to end for the year is the Watauga County Farmer’s Market. 

“After their sales are done for the day on Saturday, they are really great about donating their extras to help fill our baskets with fresh produce,” said Stutts. “It helps tremendously.” 

The Watauga County Farmer’s Market will close for the season at the end of October. 

Another ally of the food pantry is the Dollar Tree retail store, located in Boone behind the Golden Corral. 

“Dollar Tree has saved us,” said Stutts. “They are always glad to help, and they know what we need. For two weeks, they will recommend that their customers donate canned food to our big box in the store. Then, the next two weeks, they will suggest personal hygiene items or stuff to help run a household. They give us on average about 200 pounds of products a week. It has saved our life.” 

According to Stutts, a volunteer from the food pantry visits Dollar Tree once a week to collect donated items from the box. 

“It there’s a ball game that week, we usually come out in pretty good shape from donations from Dollar Tree,” said Stutts. 

For the past two years, Diane Miller has been a volunteer at FaithBridge and is now the volunteer coordinator at the food pantry. 

“I started as a client when I had back surgery and needed some help,” said Miller. “After I went back to work I began to volunteer. We’ve got about eight volunteers here and they do a great job. But I fear this is going to be a rough winter.” 

For more information, call FaithBridge United Methodist Church at (828) 295-8333. 

Blowing Rock C.A.R.E.S.

One of the newest food pantries in the High Country is the one administered by Blowing Rock C.A.R.E.S. (Children Are Really Extra Special) and located in the back of Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church in downtown Blowing Rock. 

Just last week, it learned that it would be an official recipient of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, allowing it to purchase food from the larger food bank at reduced prices, thereby saving money and making every donated dollar stretch further. 

Its first delivery from Second Harvest Food Bank was scheduled to take place on Tuesday, Oct. 15. Volunteers expected to see 1,207 pounds of food from the agency arrive at that time. 

Blowing Rock C.A.R.E.S. is an all-volunteer run food pantry serving clients from all over Watauga County. Since moving out of Blowing Rock School and into Rumple last March, the pantry has seen a 500 percent increase in clients, many of them referred to the pantry from other agencies. Currently the food pantry is serving approximately 35 families per week. 

The food pantry prepares boxes of items such as rice, peanut butter and jelly, canned meat, shelf-stable milk and canned fruits and vegetables. 

“We try to stock foods that are healthy,” said one volunteer. “For instance, we prefer canned fruits in juice rather than in syrup. We also supply clients with toothbrushes and toothpaste, toilet paper and other personal items.

“Right now, some of our pressing needs are for canned fruit, canned vegetables, canned meats and toiletries.” 

Blowing Rock C.A.R.E.S. maintains a close relationship with Blowing Rock School and currently supplies healthy snacks such as pretzels and apple sauce for school students who cannot afford them otherwise. 

“We would love to spread the word to the summer people in the Blowing Rock area about our pantry,” said one volunteer. “Before you return to your winter home, you should bring all of your unused food to us rather than let it sit in your kitchen all winter long.” 

During the next three weeks, the food pantry will also serve clients form the Greenway Baptist Church food pantry while that pantry is closed. 

The Blowing Rock C.A.R.E.S. Food Pantry is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays. Donations are accepted through Rumple Memorial Church during business hours during the other days of the week. For more information, visit

Hunger and Health Coalition
“We’ve been seeing a steady increase in demand for our services all summer long right into the fall,” said Compton Fortuna, director of the Hunger and Health Coalition. The organization is located in Boone but serves the food and pharmacy needs of people all over Watauga County. 

“The rising price of natural gas and heating oil in the winter are other factors that make demand for our services increase at this time of year. Our pantries are pretty low right now.” 

According to Fortuna, the Town of Boone cut its annual support to the Hunger and Health Coalition by $28,000 this year, the biggest single one-year cut the agency has ever experienced. 

“This year there is a huge hole in our budget,” said Fortuna. “We need local donations right now, both of food and funds.” 

For more information, call the Hunger and Health Coalition at (828) 262-1628. 

Food Lion steps up

Last Wednesday, a day after the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced that because of the federal shutdown it would not provide vouchers to families who receive Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) after October, Food Lion made a $500,000 donation in gift cards to food banks across the state to support citizens who need food assistance to feed their families. 

Food Lion distributed the gift cards, which are in $5 increments, to food banks in Asheville, Charlotte, Elizabeth City, Fayetteville, Raleigh and Winston-Salem. 

Gift card recipient Second Harvest Food Bank of North Carolina is based in Winston-Salem and helps provide food and assistance to Blowing Rock C.A.R.E.S. Food Pantry, Hunger and Health Coalition, and the FaithBridge Food Pantry.
For more information and stories, see The Blowing Rocket.

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