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Sep 9, 2022

Empowering Our Community to End Hunger

Sponsored Content provided by Beth Gaglione - Wilmington Branch Director, Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina

While nourishing people is the primary goal of the hunger relief community in the Cape Fear Region, it is also our aim to look for ways to ultimately end hunger. This will require a commitment to solutions focused work. 
 
With our many local partners, the Food Bank has committed itself to look at the root causes of food insecurity and build sustainable solutions. This requires a focus on our community’s wellbeing and was the reason the Food Bank created our Community Health & Engagement department. But to truly be solutions focused in our region, we needed to commit to building a new Food Bank facility so that we could expand our work of empowering communities. Here are a few ways we will do that. 
 
We plan to operate a commercial kitchen with individuals in a workforce development program who are seeking a culinary certification with a goal of joining our local hospitality industry. A trained culinary workforce in our community is vitally important to the local economy that is dependent on vibrant tourism. Being positioned to build a person’s skill set to acquire meaningful work and a living wage in Wilmington is solutions focused. Our kitchen will utilize donated foods to create healthy, nutrient-dense meals for people living in shelters, attending senior day-programs, and children’s after-school programs. And it will also be able to produce 5,000 meals per day if we need to respond to a disaster like Hurricane Florence.
 
The solution to providing our partner agencies with healthier foods is adding more space for refrigeration and freezer capacity. With added cooler space we can have more produce, meat, and dairy items available to those helping fight hunger, and ultimately to our friends and neighbors. 
 
Making fresh and healthy foods available to residents of the Southside neighborhood that once was home to a small grocery store is another solution focused effort at reducing food insecurity in Wilmington. A marketplace on the site of the new Food Bank will have fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy goods. The goal is to allow neighbors the opportunity to purchase low-cost, fresh food close to home. Most of the produce in the marketplace will come from our region’s small farmers and all will be available at an affordable price. Our investment in buying food increases accessibility for people living in a food desert is also an economic boost for local farmers.
 
Some of the produce that will be available at the Food Bank’s new location will be grown onsite as a part of an urban learning farm. While the Food Bank will be able to benefit from harvesting the farm, even more important is to build the knowledge of an individual whose goal is to be able to learn to grow food themselves as a part of empowering our local community.
 
As the Food Bank expands, so can our work in nutrition education. Our partners, like Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard and Catholic Charities, have found recipes, classes, and cooking demonstrations make a real impact on health and wellbeing. The commercial kitchen planned for the new facility will play a key role in furthering these efforts. Giving someone an eggplant and instructions on how to cook it is one thing. Engaging with a person and showing them how to chop it, season it, and cook it in person is a whole other level. Watch one of our cooking demonstrations here.
 
While there are hundreds of people involved in the fight against hunger in the Cape Fear region, there are also many companies and small businesses in the region that invest extensively in the effort to end food security. They include Bank of America, Food Lion, Novant Health, Liberty Healthcare,
Martin Marietta, and the Holt Oil Company, just to name a few. (A complete list of the area businesses that have invested in our ability to build a new Food Bank can be found at foodbankcenc.org/ilmupdate)
 
You can help, too. Please go to foodbankcenc.org/opendoors to play a part in empowering our community to end hunger.

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