Local food bank helps feed the community

By Jessica Seaman
UNC Co-Editor
the Durham VOICE

Every week the Ministerio Guerrero de Jesucristo church in Durham helps feed at least 30 families.

Patrick Spencer, outreach coordinator for the food bank, checks on the warehouse’s stock of sweet potatoes. Spencer has been at the food bank for three years and has seen an increase in the demand for food. (Staff photo by Jessica Seaman)

And because of the sluggish economy, the number of people who need assistance is increasing, so the church is turning to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina in Durham to help feed people in the community, said Pastor Julian Del Rosario.

The food bank is a non-profit organization that serves 34 counties in central and eastern North Carolina.

The Durham branch, at 708 Gilbert St., serves Chatham, Durham, Granville, Orange, Person and Vance counties, said Jennifer Caslin, spokeswoman for the food bank. She said there are about 93,000 people in the six counties that are at risk of hunger.

Caslin said the food bank mainly distributes non-perishable food, such as canned vegetables but that it also has fresh produce and meat. She said some of the items that the warehouse needs the most is canned soup, vegetables and rice.

The food bank does not directly distribute food. Instead, agencies such as group homes and food pantries travel to the 18,500 square foot warehouse to look through large cardboard boxes that hold 800 to 1,200 pounds of non-perishable foods and freezers that hold meat and produce.

Caslin said it is cheaper for agencies to come to food banks to buy food instead of going to grocery stores because at the warehouse, agencies are able to get some food free and for other items they pay 18 cent per pound.

“If [agencies] had to go to a store to purchase food the cost would be astronomical,” Caslin said. “They would never be able to feed all of the people they need to.”

Last year Ministerio Guerrero de Jesucristo spent about $8,000 at the food bank and distributed about 200,000 pounds of food to local families, Rosario said.

He said the church relies heavily on the food bank to help feed the community.

“The food bank is a big help to our community,” Rosario said.”This is a light in the darkness

Caslin said the food bank has seen an increase in the number of people that need assistance.

“The need is still there,” she said.  “There is a lot of need in this community but there is a lot of need in all communities.”

Patrick Spencer, outreach coordinator for the food bank said that everyday a person comes to the food bank asking for food. He said meat, baby food and hygiene products are the most requested items.

“I’ve seen more and more people come through the door asking for food,” he said.

And although, the food bank does not directly distribute food, it saves some food for people that come in asking for help.

Spencer said the warehouse keeps bread, produce and water on hand in case someone comes in asking for food.

“If someone needs food right away, we don’t just send them away,” he said, adding that the food given to people at the food bank is free.