On September 14, 2018, Hurricane Florence made landfall on the NC coast, bringing 8 trillion gallons of rain, creating a 10-foot storm surge, and unprecedented flooding. More than one million people lost power and the storm is estimated to have caused $17 billion in damage. Many of those people were here in the Cape Fear Region.
The response needed after Hurricane Florence is unlike any disaster relief the Food Bank has undertaken. Following the storm, the Food Bank distributed more than 6 million pounds of food to our friends and neighbors who were impacted. But this was not easy work to do from the Food Bank’s current facility on Marstellar Street. Additional warehouse space was needed and secured in Leland and we distributed much of the food directly to our partner agencies or organizations like Operation BBQ Relief and the American Red Cross.
Temporary staff was needed and included a combination of employees from other food banks in the Feeding America network, folks from staffing agencies, and members of the National Guard. Extra trucks were rented to ensure all the food could be distributed quickly and efficiently.
The work of recovery continued over the next two years as the Food Bank served hard-hit communities. Some of our partner agencies had to close temporarily for repairs or move to other sites. In the summer of 2019, the Food Bank partnered with Pender County schools to provide boxes of food to children attending summer camps. The school had informed us that more than 1,000 families were still displaced from their homes, and in need of food.
We hope the new Food Bank facility and the investments that have been made in building solutions will make the Food Bank, and therefore the community, more resilient. More resilient when weather disaster strikes. More resilient when our community deals with a neighborhood fire like the one in Carolina Beach in April 2021. More resilient if we ever face a situation like COVID-19 again. More space will allow for more food, more volunteers, and more programming but will reduce the inefficiencies of running two spaces during disaster response.
The design and construction of the building has also factored in severe weather so we can still operate following a storm. Including the commercial kitchen in the new space will allow the Food Bank to produce highly nutritious frozen meals to distribute in response to disasters. The kitchen will be able to produce 5,000 meals per day if we need to respond to a disaster like Hurricane Florence.
A major goal of the Food Bank has always been to help our agencies expand their capacity – but after the extensive damage of Hurricane Florence we knew we had to help them become more resilient as well. With that in mind, our grants staff has offered their assistance to our partners in securing grants in that vein. Our Network Engagement team works with our partner agencies to identify projects we can help them complete – things like new equipment or facility improvements – that will allow them to be more resilient following weather incidents. In other words, building resiliency includes building the capacity of our partners in hunger relief, too.
Join us in helping make our Food Bank, and our community, more resilient at foodbankcenc.org/opendoors.
Audrey Elsberry - Feb 28, 2024
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