ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) — Expansion of the regional food bank in northeast North Carolina will help provide millions of additional meals over the next couple of years, according to employees.
The Foodbank of the Albemarle received a grant from Feeding America back in 2020 to expand its refrigeration and freezer space at its site in Elizabeth City.
Before completion of phase one of the expansion, the facility only had 600 square feet of freezer and refrigeration space, which would hold about one tractor-trailer load of food.
Now, storage has increased to 80,000 cubic square feet and will hold about eight truckloads of food, food bank Executive Director Liz Reasoner said.
“That will enable [us] … to handle fresh perishable products which will go out to our clients and partner agencies and increase their capacity and provide nutritious foods,” she said.
Reasoner says the food bank serves 15 counties and helps nearly 150 programs in the region.
The organization was planning to expand its storage space because it wasn’t able to keep up with the number of perishable donations coming in.
“It means that instead of turning down protein like poultry and pork product, we get to say ‘yes’ to donors like Tyson and Perdue. It means being able to say ‘yes’ to a grower that has sweet potatoes and cabbage and corn and broccoli and green beans. That ‘yes’ we have that ability to take that product, store it, and handle it,” she said about the addition.
Compared to this time last year, Reasoner says their distribution is up 54%. They also spent $1.8 million buying food in 2020 compared to normally spending about $500,000. Reasoner says that’s because donations they normally depend on dropped.
Volunteerism also saw a decrease because many who help out at the food bank are retirees and are in the at-risk category for contracting COVID. Reasoner thanked Gov. Roy Cooper for allowing National Guardsmen to help box food for their clients.
“Its just one small piece of the puzzle of what’s going on for food banks across the country and here in North Carolina,” she said about the demand they’ve seen as well as the obstacles they’ve faced.
Although there is a lot that can still be done to help ease the burden for the organization, Reasoner is excited about how the added space will help their mission.
“It’s going to provide millions and millions of meals,” she said. “The legacy of that construction is going to provide millions of meals. Just in the next three years, it’s going to be six to ten million meals in those two units. That’s what makes me smile.
Reasoner says the organization will now work to expand space for dry goods as well as get employees, who have worked out of the building for years, back into office space. They are also working on community programs and nutrition classes.
She’s asking anyone who needs help to contact them. Pantry days are Tuesdays and Fridays from 9-11:45 a.m. and are done drive-thru style.
To get assistance, you can contact the pantry coordinator at 252-335-4035, extension 105,
Reasoner says they are also looking for volunteers and will use any talents available. They are following CDC guidelines and have personal protective equipment for volunteers.
If you can’t volunteer, Reasoner says monetary donations also help.
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