Last week, we launched the third annual "The Great Pantry Makeover" (TGPM) campaign, announcing the Food Lion Feeds team's plans to double its efforts this year in honor of its 60th anniversary, expanding from 30 pantry makeovers to 60 across our 10-state footprint. Leading up to our anniversary date of Dec. 12, Food Lion associates will donate more than 2.5 million meals and 2,000 volunteer hours as part of its largest associate volunteer initiative in the process.
This week, associates renovated food pantries in three cities in Tennessee, proudly enabling our community partners to increase their capacity and better serve the neighbors who depend on them most to nourish their families. Below, you'll find their stories.
As a reminder, each week, you can keep up with the Food Lion Feeds team as we recap the impact we're making through The Great Pantry Makeover events here on our Lion's Tale blog. And, to keep up with TGPM events in real time, follow the excitement with daily updates on Twitter @FoodLionNews!
Sept. 13 – Cleveland, Tenn.
"A new view in sight."
For 16 years, the Valley View Storehouse, part of Valley View Baptist Church in Cleveland, Tenn., has served hundreds of families on the first and third Tuesday of every month. But it wasn't always that way. The pantry was established as a way to help feed the small number of people who came to the church asking for food.
Soon after, word spread, and the church became bombarded with requests for food.
That's when Miss Lily, one of the church members, brought this up to her Sunday school class.
"We discussed what we could do to help and came up with a plan to fix a few bags with very basic things, like spaghetti and macaroni and cheese," Miss Lily said.
And not long after, a few bags turned into a lot.
In the beginning, Valley View Storehouse stored food in a broom closet at the church and finally expanded into the pastor's old house behind the church in 2008 following increased growth.
Although Valley View never turns anyone away for food, there was a growing concern about their capability to serve their clients due to lack of shelving, refrigerator and freezer space for food storage. That's when Food Lion stepped in.
Valley View Storehouse was nominated by Chattanooga Area Food Bank to be the recipient of Food Lion's The Great Pantry Makeover, and was beyond thrilled when they found out had won. Not only did the pantry receive a new refrigerator and freezer, they also were able to put up new lighting, install new shelving, and put a durable sign out front.
"We were dumbfounded when we saw how much Food Lion was donating," Miss Lily said through tears of happiness.
With the help of Food Lion volunteers on Sept. 13, the freezer and shelves were stocked with food donated from Food Lion, the lights were installed, the sign was posted, furniture was both assembled and moved and the trim inside the house was painted.
"This makeover has already helped us so much. We had to store some of the food at other church members' homes because we didn't have enough room. Not only do we have plenty of room to hold all the food now, but it's also helped increase volunteers and donations," said Lorraine Messer, pantry director.
In fact, the roller table assembled by Food Lion volunteers was donated by the manufacturer because they were inspired by Food Lion's donation, which enabled Valley View to stretch Food Lion's support further.
"Today was a great experience," claimed Chris Hicks, Food Lion Store 941 Store Manager. "Anytime we can get out in the community and give back is a good day for us."
For the many volunteers, including Miss Lily, who, in her 80's still volunteers on distribution days, this makeover will enable Valley View to serve families for years to come.
"It's such a blessing to have you all here today, and we are so grateful for Food Lion's support," Miss Lily added.
Sept. 13 – Tullahoma, Tenn.
"It's more than just food; it's love."
Many Americans are accustomed to having a refrigerator inside of our homes. In some cases, some Americans have a deep freezer to help store meats for later preparation.
A refrigerator is nothing to think twice about, right? The staff and food recipients at First Christian Church in Tullahoma, Tenn., would have to disagree.
"These two new appliances will allow First Christian Church to build capacity to store food that will ultimately feed more families more efficiently," said Courtney Blaise, manager of community relations at Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee.
She, along with members of the church, watched in amazement as Food Lion associates helped to unpack and stock these two new appliances at the Tullahoma, Tenn., church.
The church was chosen by Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee to receive a $5,000 grant from Food Lion's third annual The Great Pantry Makeover initiative. Armed in bright yellow t-shirts and a willingness to help, Food Lion associates did everything from arranging the appliances to building and restocking shelves with Food Lion perishable and non-perishable food items.
"I can't even tell you how excited we are," said Church Pastor Tom Murdock during an on-site interview inside the pantry. "We serve close to 80 families per month and this just opens up so many opportunities for us. We have just been grateful to Food Lion in general as they help us with their food rescue program by providing food, which for some people provides daily nutrition for their lunch."
The church had an old refrigerator and freezer, but both were beginning to have operational problems.
Murdock said the old appliances were donated to the church gently used, but it had since become unsafe to keep food in them.
Food Lion Store 1354 Store Manager Jeremy Motley in Spring Hill, Tenn., said he enjoyed his experience helping the church.
"It's just always a great honor and humbling to come out and help people in our communities and to see the work the local food banks are doing to help the communities we operate in," Motely said. "As an associate we talk about Food Lion Feeds in-store all the time, but it's exciting to be involved and see the end result of how we are helping our neighbors."
Sept. 11 – Chattanooga, Tenn.
"Food, renovations and 'blessings.'"
Julie Newman considers herself in a great position right now, where she can volunteer and help Joyful Sound Church in East Lake, Tenn., adjacent to Chattanooga.
But she didn't always feel that way.
"I remember as a kid having nothing but a can of green beans, corn and one meat in the house and not knowing where our next meal would come from," Newman said inside of the church's pantry.
The church was a recipient of Food Lion's Great Pantry Makeover. They received new paint in their kitchen area, a donation of perishable and non-perishable food, along with a new refrigerator and freezer.
"We just like to able to bless the community and Food Lion has helped us in a big way to do this today," Newman said.
The church is the focal point for the East Lake community where people "who are down on their luck" may receive food to help them. The church provides food for about 450 families a month. Now, with Food Lion's donation of the freezer they will be able to provide more nutritious, fresh meals to families.
"The food boxes we hand out are donated by Food Lion, and you would probably spend $200 or more if you purchased it in the store," Newman said. "We are able to give it out to hungry families for free."
Jack Lewis, a local Food Lion store manager, said the Great Pantry Makeover was great for Tennessee associates.
"Today instills pride for me as an associate for this company," Lewis said. "I had a chance to see what the church had to work with before we came and now what they have after we are leaving."
Lewis said he see customers daily who may be dealing with food insecurity.
"For us we see people in so much need as they come into our store," Lewis said. We know that they work hard, but sometimes they may not have the money to get what they need. Today's event is really going to help them."
As the event started to wind down, about 20 church members looked on as the small group of Food Lion associates finished their work.
"We are not use to sitting down and watching other people doing work here, because usually it's us," one Joyful Sound Representative said. "Thank you, Food Lion."
In addition to pantry makeover events, Food Lion Feeds also made a 26,000-meal donation to Hope Food Pantry in Rock Hill, S.C.