This week of The Great Pantry Makeover was marked by total transformations as the team traveled across Virginia to increase the capacity at local food pantries so they can better serve hundreds of local families in need. Teams of local Food Lion associates lent their hands, and their hearts, remodeling the pantries to include fresh coats of paint, clean-up duties, landscaping, fridge and freezer donations, building full walls of shelving and filling those shelves to the brim with Food Lion fresh and non-perishable products.
As this year marks Food Lion Feeds' third annual "The Great Pantry Makeover" (TGPM) campaign, the company expanded from 30 pantry makeovers to 60 across its 10-state footprint in honor of its 60th anniversary. And, 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 in total 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!
Oct. 2 – Barhamsville, Va.
One donation meant survival for a local food pantry on Monday in Barhamsville, Va., as six Food Lion associates used the money and a little bit of muscle to transform the small, local pantry into a more appealing and resourceful place for its clients.
"I had to work yesterday so I could be here and I am so glad that I did," said Food Lion Associate Terin Langley who works as a retail pricing coordinator in Williamsburg, Va. "It's amazing to see people helping other people, and it's amazing to see that people wanted to come out do this for their community."
Proclaiming Grace Outreach Pantry, located in Barhamsville, Va., is only open two days per month but serves up to 700 families in the rural area. The agency generally provides three bags of dry goods and one bag of meat to each family. Food Lion's donation Monday included three additional new freezers, which now allows the agency to provide both fresh produce and dairy products to clients.
Jim Crouse, the pantry's coordinator, said "The Great Pantry Makeover" is making an impact in the lives of people who are food insecure.
"We greatly, greatly, greatly appreciate what Food Lion is doing here today," Crouse said in front of a group of Feedmore Food Bank staff outside the pantry.
Before associates arrived at the pantry, located inside a single-wide manufactured home, the grounds needed work, the exterior of the building needed painting and inside shelves had to be assembled.
Three hours later, the facility was transformed.
Associates applied a fresh coat of paint to the outside and turned the grounds into a nicely landscaped area with a touch of fall plants and mulch.
"It's incredibly important we be here today because it shows that Food Lion supports the communities it operates in," said Leah King, Food Lion store manager in Gloucester, Va. "It's rewarding to me to see the state the pantry was in when we arrived and what it looks like now."
FeedMore representative Kevin Rudnick said Food Lion understands that supporting agencies are important.
"Food Lion is one of the very few retail partners we work with who understand that in addition to supporting Feedmore, it's also important to help the feed agencies directly," Rudnick said. "Food Lion is working to help agencies like Proclaiming Grace Outreach build capacity and help more families."
Finally, Harold Horton, Director of Operations for the region, presented the pantry staff with a plaque commemorating the event. Pantry staff plan on hanging it in the waiting room area so that clients can see.
Oct. 4. – Yorktown, Va.
"There's always time to give back."
Food Lion Store Manager Helen Spencer has a lot going on this week.
Her daughter is getting married and she is spending some time with an in-law to celebrate a birthday.
Still, the Yorktown, Va., Food Lion associate, along with eight others, made time to volunteer at Zion Prospect Baptist Church in Yorktown, Va., Wednesday to paint, assemble and stock the shelves with non-perishable products from Food Lion.
"It's fantastic that we are going into our communities to help," Spencer said. "When we participate in these Great Pantry Makeovers, we get to see folks who shop in our stores, especially those that run pantries like this one."
Spencer, who is the store manager at Store 1609 has worked with Food Lion for more than 17 years, 11 of them as a store manager.
She said a lot of the associates who worked at the church on Wednesday will go into their stores afterwards with their yellow "The Great Pantry Makeover" shirts on, sparking conversations with their friends.
"We tell them what we did and how important the items are we are giving to particular organizations like this one," Spencer said. "I think it helps them to understand we are not donating food to anonymous people, but those right here in our hometown."
Zion Prospect Baptist Church started feeding local hungry families 20 years ago through its "bread program." Now they distribute all types of food once per week from its pantry serving more than 300 families monthly. They spend the rest of the week making sandwiches for local homeless and donating food to other church pantries for their distribution. Church staff also picks up food weekly from the local Food Lion as part of its food rescue program.
Rosa Johnson, wife of Pastor Walter C. Johnson, said Wednesday's makeover is really going to help the church and the community.
"We formerly could only fit about three people at a time on the distribution side of the pantry because of space," Mrs. Johnson said. Now that the wall has been demolished and Food Lion volunteers have painted the area, it will make it easier for our clients."
She told several stories of people who depend on the pantry for food. Many times she said they come with no food in their home pantries.
"Some of the stories are sad," she said.
Food Lion provided $4,500 to pay for the contract work to demolish the wall as well as funds for new shelving units and paint. Food Lion also last year provided the church with a grant to purchase a freezer and refrigerator so they could provide fresh items for clients.
"Today's makeover is going to increase the amount of nutritious food they give to their clients because it will help their health overall," said Virginia Peninsula Food Bank Agency Director Katie Patrick. "There is a misnomer that there is no poverty in Yorktown because people do not see it, but there are big pockets of people living way below the poverty level."
In addition to pantry makeover events, Food Lion Feeds also made 26,000-meal donation to Dawson County Food Bank in Dawsonville, Ga.