aims to raise about $1.5 million to renovate and outfit its future office and warehouse space in Wilmington.
The award-winning local nonprofit organization purchased the building and the 2 acres it sits on off Market Street late last year for $700,000, NourishNC Executive Director Steve McCrossan said.
Although the organization waited until mid-July to launch its capital campaign for the project, the building has already been put to good use.
It’s been the setting for NourishNC’s no-contact drive-thru, serving children and families with healthy food during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused school closures.
Just days after New Hanover County Schools closed in March, NourishNC opened the location for the drive-thru, he said.
The nonprofit agency, which has a mission to provide nutritious food to hungry and food-insecure children in New Hanover County, has seen an increase in the number of children it serves because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our numbers have been soaring. Our backpack programs have seen an easy 40% increase in children. But we’re also sending food out with partners,” McCrossan said. “For us, one of our key values is the ability to adapt quickly and be limber.”
McCrossan joined the nonprofit organization as executive director five years ago.
NourishNC began in 2008 when some concerned parents heard that children at Carolina Beach Elementary School were struggling to eat over the weekends and over long school breaks, when school lunch wasn’t available, he said.
Weekend food bags started being packed for the children, an effort that became NourishNC’s backpack program, he said.
From that one school and 15 kids, NourishNC has grown into multiple programs.
That backpack program has built up to about 1,200 students prepandemic and today, due to the pandemic impact on school closures, has grown to about 1,700 children, McCrossan said.
NourishNC launched the Farmers MarKID, a program in which the organization takes fresh food to high-need neighborhoods, food deserts, parks and playgrounds, and lets children shop for their own fresh food.
The Food Farmacy program reaches children inside pediatric offices, and Toddler Tummies delivers food directly to homes with 1- to 4-year-old children in need.
Now, the organization is in planning mode for the uncertain future needs of children in the county.
“We have been planning for weeks for a resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall and a couple of hurricanes,” McCrossan said. “As much as I hate to put those two words together, it’s our responsibility to be ready for that possibility.”
That means purchasing and stockpiling food, as well as splitting food between multiple locations in the event of a lost building, to be ready for children and families.
“I think the beautiful thing about us being a small agency is we can turn the ship very quickly,” McCrossan said.
Correction: This story has been updated to make a correction to the number of children served in NourishNC's backpack program before the pandemic and the number of children the program serves today.