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NC Food Orgs Work to Share Local Produce for Holiday Season


Wednesday, November 25, 2020   

DURHAM, N.C. - Thanksgiving gatherings may be smaller this year, but North Carolinians need access to food more than ever, as the pandemic's economic downturn leaves many households struggling to buy groceries.

Katie-Rose Crater, interim co-director of Farmer Foodshare works with farmers of color, and women and veterans who are farmers in the Durham area, to buy their produce and sell it to communities and schools.

Crater said some farmers are losing up to $1,000 a week, mostly because restaurants aren't buying as much produce. Her organization is filling the gap, purchasing local produce to supply food boxes for COVID patients in need at the Duke Outpatient Clinic.

"We're in a fortunate position to where not only are we supporting those who are having difficulty accessing food during the pandemic," said Crater, "but we're also in a fortunate enough position to be able to invest in the fragile, local farming economy."

The American Heart Association and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina recently awarded more than $100,000 in community "mini-grants" to several groups, including Farmer Foodshare, working to provide healthy meals to people at risk statewide.

Laura Rice, communications and media manager of the Raleigh-based Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, said its food-bank volunteers continue to deliver to low-income seniors. So far, more than 2,000 seniors receive bags each month, containing up to 10 pounds of fresh produce, shelf-stable items and recipe cards.

But she noted the list of folks in need is growing.

"People who have never had an issue with hunger before are now having to access food through pantries, our mobile markets, our distribution centers," said Rice. "You know, you see the images on the nightly news of the long lines at the food pantries."

Eli Mercuree Rue, director of food systems programs at Seeds NC said her organization is creating culturally appropriate food boxes using local produce. She said the program has benefited Latinx and other immigrant communities in need, as well as local farmers.

"So I can't overlook that part of it at all, you know," said Rue. "The things like how big, it's connected in so many ways, not just to the people receiving the bags, but also to the farmers."

A recent study from North Carolina Central University found 17% of people in the state said they've experienced at least one day without a sufficient food supply in the past week.

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