New food bank director knows what it's like to be hungry
October 28, 2011By Jamaal E. O'Neal
For Jeff Rose, growing up in a small town had its ups and downs.
“I grew up poor,” Rose, 33, recalled recently. “I grew up in a rural part of the state, and we struggled from time to time.”
Rose, an Oxford native, said when he was younger, his mother was a stay-at-home mom, so his family got by on his father’s small income as a financial aid advisor at an area community college.
Rose said his family often had to make difficult decisions about how money was spent.
“There were times where we had to choose between going to the doctor and eating,” Rose said. “So I understand what it’s like to not have food all the time.”
That’s why the University of North Carolina Wilmington alumnus takes to heart his new title of Wilmington Branch Director for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.
His first day on the job was October 3, marking the 10-year anniversary of his 2001 departure to Guinea, West Africa, as a member of the Peace Corps.
Rose also served five years as executive director of the Wilmington-based Full Belly Project, a nonprofit that designs and distributes income-generating agricultural devices to improve life in rural communities, before joining the Food Bank.
“I’m very excited about my new job,” Rose said, “This is a great organization, and everyone has been so supportive.”
The Wilmington Branch Food Bank is a nonprofit organization that serves four counties — New Hanover, Brunswick, Pender and Columbus — as a distribution hub for over 92 organizations that deal with individuals struggling to put food on the table in the Greater Cape Fear region.
Rose said local partners include Wilmington-based nonprofit Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard; the Wilmington Residential Adolescent Achievement Place, an after-school tutoring and feeding program housed at Williston Middle School; and Kids Café, which provides free, healthy snacks to low-income children for weekend consumption.
“We collect a lot of food from local organizations and throughout the nation to give to partners doing feeding programs,” Rose said. “We work with our partners to make sure no one goes hungry in our region.”
While reserves at the 12,000-square foot facility on Marstellar Street are holding steady, the demand for food has sharply increased, another Food Bank official said.
“We’ve seen between a 30 percent and 60 percent increase in demand for food from a number of our partner agencies,” said Jennifer Caslin, the Wilmington Food Bank’s marketing and public relations coordinator. “The increase has been very high, and many of the agencies have been running through their supplies very quickly.”
Rose said the faces of those needing food assistance is also changing, a testament to Wilmington’s continuing high
“Thirty percent of the people we serve had one working adult…,” he said. “We’re not talking about people who are not working.”
And as the demand for food grows because of the effects families are feeling from the Great Recession, the region’s growth continues to add strain to resources and the Food Bank’s warehouse space.
The Cape Fear region added more than 95,000 residents between 2000 and 2010, swelling from more than 250,000 to nearly 350,000 people, according to 2010 U.S. Census Bureau figures.
“One of the things that we need is more space,” Rose said. “If someone would donate a space of 25,000-square feet or better, that would give us a tremendous opportunity to house more frozen goods and food, and have additional volunteers come and help at our facility.”
Rose said he’s also visiting with some of his former colleagues from UNCW’s Public Administration program who now work for the city of Wilmington to see if the city is interested in helping them locate additional warehouse space.
“The key is finding additional space, and networking with businesses to make sure that we can help fight hunger together,” Rose said. “This is a need that stays with us all year long.”
Overall, Rose said he’s excited about his new role with the Food Bank, and looking forward to forging new relationships and partnerships in the Greater Cape Fear region.
“This is a tough time for many families,” Rose said.
“I understand the mission of the Food Bank because I’ve been there,” he added. “That’s why it’s important for all of us to work together to make sure no one goes hungry.”