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Nourish NC, Other Groups Fill Food Gap

By Jessica Maurer, posted Apr 7, 2020
With New Hanover County Schools providing thousands of meals each week to students throughout the county, Nourish NC is just one of many local organizations that has answered the call to provide supplemental meals for the food-insecure.

Nourish NC’s director, Steve McCrossan, said the organization’s mission has not changed in the wake of the virus, but what has changed is the way it’s being carried out.

Nourish has partnered with New Hanover County Schools, GLOW Academy, Ring and Run, the Latino Alliance, Coastal Horizons, Kids Making It, the Brigade Boys and Girls Club and the YWCA, and together they have distributed over 1,250 emergency food boxes and 313 grocery bags (63,852 meals) at a drive-thru.

These packages included 827 loaves of bread, 533 packages of meat, 5,140 pounds of fresh produce, and 120 dozen eggs.

Beyond that, the organizations have purchased and delivered 800 take-and-bake meals and 1,200 brown-bag lunches (pictured below) to area neighborhoods and given 200 weekend backpacks directly to children in need.

Each organization is also doing its own work to combat hunger.

“Our focus is to get nutritious food into bellies of food-insecure kids and their families,” McCrossan said.

He said that thankfully, his organization was relatively well prepared for the outbreak. It began stocking up early on and discussing lessons learned from disasters such as Hurricane Florence. The staff also began multiple trainings in relation to COVID-19 safety procedures.

That preparation set them up for success, but the distribution has not been without its challenges.

“Our food distribution drive-thru opened March 17 and we had boots on the ground in multiple communities the same day,” McCrossan said. “A few weeks in, our biggest issue is the choppy supply chain. Some of our vendors have cancelled bulk orders all together; others are delayed indefinitely or cannot source certain products.

"We have reached out to multiple other vendors and hope to remedy this early next week. In normal times, we also take in a tremendous amount of donated food from the community but that has slowed to a trickle.”

McCrossan said the organization’s biggest needs right now are donations of cash and food.

“Every box of macaroni and cheese, every can of soup, and every dollar matters,” McCrossan said.

After an early adrenaline-fueled sprint, Nourish NC is now settling in for a marathon, said McCrossan.  

He emphasized that even if COVID-19 subsides by May, the organization is committed to feeding the children on their programs throughout the summer and beyond. That being said, this increased demand will require long-term funding.

“The data shows that donations typically surge after a disaster or incident and then exponentially decrease over the ensuing months,” McCrossan said. “While that worries me, I have always found our community to be generous when our kids need it. The people, businesses, and faith-based community here have always stepped up and I am confident that they will again.”

To learn more about Nourish NC or to volunteer or donate, visit its website.

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