Durham Food Bank makes a difference every day

By Corliss Pauling
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

Looking from the outside of the Durham Branch Food Bank no one would ever guess or realize how important this facility is to a lot of people.

Volunteer Sherrece Wilson arranges the bread crates at the Durham Food Bank on Gilbert Street. (Staff Photo by Corliss Pauling)

The Durham Branch Food Bank located at 708 Gilbert is a non-profit organization that has served the community for 10 years. Its job is to provide food to partner agencies, shelters, food pantries and after school programs for children.

The Durham Branch Food Bank is operated in association with the Food Bank of North Central and Eastern North Carolina which started in 1980. Its main warehouse is located in Raleigh, N.C.

According to the central and eastern food bank Web site, “The mission of the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina is to harness and supply resources so that no one goes hungry in central and eastern North Carolina.”

The Durham branch supplies a variety of items like canned vegetables and fruits, rice, peanut butter, beverages, infant formula, paper products and hygiene items along with other services to five counties that include Chatham, Granville, Orange, Person and Vance.

Retail stores like Food Lion, Kroger, Harris Teeter, Wal-Mart and Target donate meat and dairy products that have not reached their expiration date.

The two Food Lion stores located on 2930 W. Main Street and 3808 Guess Rd. provide donations and other items to the food bank on a daily basis.

“We are very blessed to have stores like these that donate to the food bank,” said Anthony Reyeros, operations coordinator for the Durham Branch Food Bank.

The Durham branch also picks up bread products with their two drivers every Tuesday from Bimbo Bakery which has locations in Morrisville and Raleigh.

“The Bimbo Bakery delivers about three to six thousand pounds of food every Tuesday,” said Reyeros.

But it was not always like this.

“When the economy got worse, Bimbo Bakery tightened their belts and started giving fewer and fewer amounts of their products, and at one point in time the food bank could not even fill up the space allotted for bread products.”

But that is not the case now.

Sherrece Wilson and Dennis Cannon, volunteers for the food bank, were stacking loads of bread the day after the food bank’s Tuesday pick-up.

Collecting the food donations is only half the job. The real work comes when partner agencies and non-profit organizations come to shop for groceries.

Each agency or non-profit is paired with a shopping attendant that guides them through the process and shows them what products they are able to choose from.

“The agencies are allowed to get whatever amount they need with no limit,” said Reyeros.

Agencies such as Mt. Zion Christian Church, Urban Ministries of Durham Food Pantry, Asbury Temple United Methodist Church and Meals on Wheels of Durham schedule appointments throughout the month.

Even though the food bank donates and gives out food, the branch still has to pay bills and operating costs.

“Every Partner agency pays a flat rate of 18 cents a pound that goes towards the daily operation of the office building and the warehouse,” said Reyeros.

But the Durham branch is also known for programs that are specifically dedicated to offering nutritional meals to young children that would not otherwise have them.

Programs like Kid Café and Back Pack benefit children from low income families that can’t afford to feed them a healthy variety of foods.

“The backpack program is aimed at reaching kids who don’t receive food outside of school especially during the weekend,” said Reyeros.

Durham’s Eastway Elementary School, Burton Geo-Magnet School and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools are all participating in the program.

Linda Diskey, a volunteer for the Durham branch said, “I have been volunteering here for two years and it has been a great experience working here.”

Over the past 10 years the Durham Food Bank has provided over 30 million pounds of food to shelters, food pantries, church ministries and more. It has been an asset to Durham and the surrounding communities.

With one decade down, the Durham Food Bank looks forward to celebrating the next 10 years of serving the community.