It's hard to believe we're in the last week of Feeding America's® Hunger Action Month™ and as we take a look back over the work our associates have done to mobilize our communities in the fight against hunger, we realize it's truly incredible what a team can accomplish with a little passion and hard work. For those of you who have been keeping up with the series, you may have noticed we took a quick break last week from our The Great Pantry Makeover initiative to set a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS® title for the most bagged lunches packed in one hour! All 10,320 lunches were donated to local food banks and school. Read about the event here.
This past week the team got back on the road, remodeling, painting, cleaning and stocking the shelves at partner food pantries in Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina! This year marks Food Lion Feeds' the third annual "The Great Pantry Makeover" (TGPM) campaign, expanding from 30 pantry makeovers to 60 across Food Lion's 10-state footprint in honor of its 60th anniversary.
And, just because it's the last week of Hunger Action Week, doesn't mean our work is coming to an end. 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.
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. 25 – Kingsport, Tenn.
"This donation is different and will help people."
Store 1497 Associate Bridgett Manis just spent the last few weeks painting and renovating her home to suit her taste.
So, when her team needed a volunteer to help paint the inside of Higher Ground Church's food pantry, she was ready.
"This is different and will help people," Manis said taking a break earlier this week from painting the waiting area inside of the Kingsport, Tenn., church.
She and six other Food Lion associates from surrounding stores spent three hours painting, restocking and performing minor clean-up duties inside the pantry, which was formerly a residence.
Pantry Organizer and Volunteer Joe Stonecipher said the church bought the adjacent property so it could help provide food and clothing for residents living near the church.
"When we first opened five years ago we were feeding six families per week, but now, especially during our peak season in November, we feed more than 500 families a month," Stonecipher told the group outside the pantry who gathered in front of the building.
That's impressive for only being opening four hours, two days per week!
Armed in yellow and blue Food Lion "The Great Pantry Makeover" T-shirts, the team split into teams in order to tackle the renovations, which would be seen by clients the next day.
Several associates said they were amazed a family could survive on the one box of food a month they receive from the pantry while most Americans are accustomed to going to the grocery store once a week.
In addition to performing renovations, Food Lion Feeds donated more than 1,400 meals of both perishable and non-perishable food to the pantry. Thankfully, the perishable food was stored inside of a new refrigerator/freezer combo the church received as part of Monday's makeover.
"In the past we were allowed by Second Harvest Food Bank of Northern Tennessee to take 25 cases of eggs, but we can take that 25 cases of eggs and be able to use what Food Lion gave us to meet the needs of this community," Stonecipher said. "Now with this new refrigerator, we can take those 25 cases of eggs."
Sept. 26. – Johnson City, Tenn.
"What seemed like a little, sure meant a lot."
Robert Lampkins works at Store 218 in Northern Tennessee as a Center Store Lead in charge of stocking key items for customers.
But, on Tuesday, the Food Lion associate was stocking food at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church Food Pantry for a different reason: to help feed hungry people in northeast Tennessee.
"If I had to describe my experience today in one word, that would be: different," Lampkins said immediately after the morning project, which was part of Food Lion's third annual The Great Pantry Makeover.
"I selected that word because to me it was not hard because it's what I do when I work at Food Lion, but this was different kind of fun for a whole different reason."
He and four other associates spent approximately two hours at the church stocking and re-locating food so the church could use their former space for other storage.
Food Lion granted the church $5,000 makeover, which funded the demolition and building of a new wall in the church basement, providing a larger space for them to operate their pantry. The funds also landed the church a new freezer, refrigerator and enough food to stock both the freezer and restock their shelves.
"This is truly a blessing and we thank Food Lion for all they do in the community," said church volunteer and project lead John Caso.
Several church members watched in amazement as Food Lion associates, some store managers and assistant managers went to work in a speedy fashion. The buzz even drew media out to cover The Great Pantry Makeover event, which was the first of its kind in Johnson City, Tenn.
"Food Lion does a lot to help us feed hungry people in our region," said Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee Executive Director Rhonda Chafin. "Whether it is a foundation grant, a cause marketing campaign, a pantry makeover or food rescue, you have demonstrated time and time again that you care about helping solve hunger in Northeast, Tenn."
At the conclusion of the event, Food Lion presented the church with a commemorative plaque.
Sept. 27 – Chambersburg, Pa.
"Food Lion changed everything."
Maranatha Food Pantry Executive Director Craig Newcomer was driving one of his clients to work after Food Lion previously notified him that they were a 2017 Winner of The Great Pantry Makeover.
"It looks like you are $1,000 over budget for what is needed at the pantry, what are you going to do?" the client asked Newcomer.
Five minutes later, he received a call from Food Lion Community Relations Specialist Angela Wheeler informing him that Food Lion could provide the additional $1,000 so that clients at the agency would have an "easier" experience.
"I can tell you that this changed his life," Newcomer said.
Fast forward to Wednesday, Sept. 27.
Several local Food Lion associates took a tour of the pantry to see some of the things the grant paid for, such as new flooring and installation of new walls enclosing their walk-in freezer and a closet.
Associates then split up in teams of two painting, stocking shelves and performing minor clean-up duties.
"This is just awesome," said Donnie Wilhide, an associate with DC-7. "It's a good opportunity today to connect with the community."
Newcomer's parents, Ben and Natalie, started the pantry in 1993. Their impact in Chambersburg grew so much over the years that they moved into a larger building five years ago.
The newer building provides enough space for them to also operate a shelter for families.
"When we started this pantry, I felt like that we should give people food that they like to eat instead of just handing them box," Natalie Newcomer said.
That's spurred the couple to develop a shopping aisle experience similar to a grocery store layout, providing dignity and choice for its clients.
Maranatha Food Pantry provides 20,000 pounds of food per month to between 500 to 700 people monthly. They operate the largest food pantry in Chambersburg, Pa., and always give back by donating 10 percent of their food to smaller local pantries.
The pantry also participates in Food Lion's Food Rescue Program picking up from store 2180 in Mercersburg, Pa.
"We do what we do with no barriers," Newcomer said. "We treat everybody with love and peace. It doesn’t matter where you come from."
Sept. 28 – Rocky Mount, Va.
"A 'cool' makeover make a difference."
Between a couple of refrigerators and a small cool-storage room, God's Provision Food Pantry was running out of space to safely store fresh, perishable items that get handed out to over 400 families a month. As Angie and Paul Routt, directors of the pantry, were searching for ways to increase their storage capacity, they got a call from Feeding America Southwest Virginia informing them they were chosen as the 2017 recipient of a Food Lion Feeds The Great Pantry Makeover.
God's Provision received $5,000 from Food Lion Feeds for the makeover and the first thing they did was purchase a "coolbot," which is a walk-in cooler, to increase their perishable storage capacity.
Last year alone they provided more than 300,000 pounds of food and now the increased storage capacity will enable them to provide even more this year. They also purchased two TV monitors that will expedite processing client's needs as well as two tablets to use during their distribution days.
With the materials purchased, the next step was to stock the coolbot and hang the TV monitors, which is exactly what 10 Food Lion volunteers did on September 28 to help out Angie and Paul.
In addition to stocking food and hanging the monitors, the volunteers also painted one of the back storage rooms and hallway that desperately needed a refresh.
"We feel so blessed with this donation and are so grateful for this support," said Paul Routt, fighting back tears as he spoke. "This is something we've been trying to do for a long time now."
Before the day ended, Food Lion Director of Operations Rob Ward gathered the volunteers together to present a special gift to Angie and Paul: a Food Lion Feeds The Great Pantry Makeover recipient plaque.
"Thank you for helping to take care of our community," Ward said. "I've been with Food Lion for a long time and seeing the difference we can make through Food Lion Feeds makes me really proud to be part of the company."
Sept. 28, 2017 – Fayetteville, N.C.
"Giving back to our local towns with gratitude."
When the call went out to Food Lion associates to volunteer for The Great Pantry Makeover at Fayetteville Urban Ministry, associate Andre Batcher knew he wanted to be there.
"I couldn't just see their name listed and not come out, I had to be here because they helped me and my family," said Batcher.
A few years ago Batcher was chronically unemployed and struggled to make ends meet. Through the Emergency Assistance Program at Fayetteville Urban Ministry in Fayetteville, N.C.,, Andre was able to visit the food pantry and feed his family from the donations.
The program started out of a basement in 1974 and has since grown into a thriving grassroots operation, touching thousands of lives in Cumberland County. When an individual like Batcher finds themselves in a crisis situation, the Emergency Assistance program is there to provide them with food, clothing and even financial assistance to help them through tough times.
"They gave us food that we would see in Food Lion, but we weren't able to buy because we didn't have money at the time, so for me it's about coming back and helping the people that helped me get to where I am today," Batcher explained.
Along with Batcher, 20 Fayetteville-area Food Lion associates arrived early Thursday morning to complete projects that would help the pantry expand their capacity to serve. Currently, the pantry serves about 45 people a day, many of which are still facing hardships from hurricane Matthew that devastated the area more than a year ago.
Fayetteville Director of Operations, Kris Thornton worked with Hanelly Estrella, Fayetteville Urban Ministry operations manager to reconfigure the pantry that would allow for more food storage and provide a shopping experience for clients similar to a grocery store.
"The work that Food Lion volunteers are doing for us today will allow us to double our space," Estrella said. "This couldn't have come at a better time because this time of the year we have an increase of clients coming in. This will help us continue to serve them."
Associates worked quickly to demo the pantries existing bulky shelves and replaced them with newly assembled, compact shelving units. After a deep clean, they completed the day by restocking the shelves with nutritious food. Volunteers of the ministry and staff walked into the new pantry with wide eyes and smiles on their faces.
"This is great; the Food Lion team is amazing and you all are angels!" exclaimed Estrella"
Giving back to the towns and cities we serve is what Food Lion Feeds is all about, and we are proud to support local pantries that feed our hungry neighbors. Today, we are reminded that we all have our own story of gratitude, and we're thankful for the opportunity to pay it forward in our communities.
In addition to pantry makeover events, Food Lion Feeds also made a 29,000-meal donation to Transformed Lives Food Pantry in Winston-Salem, N.C.