Although summer is looked forward to by many, it can be a difficult time for others. As children leave school for the summer, many lose the free meals they would normally receive at school, putting them and their families at risk for food insecurity. On May 24th 2018, Food Lion associates across the state of North Carolina bonded together to help food banks prepare for rising summer food demands. Partnering with regional food banks in Raleigh, Fayetteville, and Charlotte, Food Lion's roar was heard as approximately 500 volunteers across the three locations came out to sort bulk food that will be given out to families in need as early as the next day. Each event had its own unique flair, but all three had one thing in common: enthusiastic food lion employees ready to step up and make a difference.
The Vice President of Food Lion's Central Division, Scott Libbey spoke in Charlotte on how all three events were taking place at the same time to make a difference, stating, "Combined, we will donate over 600,000 meals today which is a big deal and matters to the communities that we serve." The impact of every participating location will be felt in the coming months as food banks help feed families in need.
Fayetteville Associates Kick off First Sort-A-Rama Event with a Bang
Roseboro, North Carolina Food Lion associate Stephanie Douglas heard about how fun and impactful Food Lion Feeds events were, so when the opportunity came to volunteer for Fayetteville's first Sort-A-Rama event Thursday, she jumped at the opportunity.
"Other associates were saying how fun it was and I didn’t want to come by myself so I just got a small group together and we are here today," said Douglas who is an evening manager at Store 948. "It warms my heart that we are helping children."
More than 50 Food Lion associates joined employees from Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Union Home Mortgage to pack more than 56,500 meals that will be given to children this summer when they get out of school next week.
"This is the first time that we will have a huge jump on packing summer meals for kids," said Ron Pringle, Director of Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina. "It's hard for us to catch up and find a group this large to help us to pack meals so we are grateful."
Associates packed clear plastic bags of snacks for breakfast, lunch and dinner that are easily accessible for children to consume this summer. They included such items as cereal bars, boxed juice, tuna, and fruit cups.
Kris Thornton, Director for the Fayetteville region, said the event was good for a couple of reasons.
"It's a good morale booster for the associates," Thornton said. "It was not hard for us to get 50 associates. Any time we need associates for Food Lion Feeds' events, folks jump at the opportunity."
Thornton also said it was a great opportunity for associates to work outside their store and see how they directly can impact fighting hunger locally. After Thursday's event, the food will be ready to be distributed to 260 agencies in seven counties served by the food bank.
"This just feels great," Associate Olivia Ward said. "I like helping others in need."
Charlotte Steps Up
Sorting through 176,000 pounds of rice and beans is no easy task, but with exuberant Food Lion employees from the company's Central divisions, the process is not only mollified, but also exciting and lively. Walking in to the Charlotte convention center at 8 a.m. on Thursday, one would be greeted with smiling faces and upbeat music as Charlotte employees got excited to give back to their city. Packaging almost 100,000 meals, volunteers truly stepped up to help fight summer hunger. CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, Kay Carter, mentioned, "In the 19 counties we serve, over half of the children attending school receive free-reduced lunch. This is indicative of how great the need is during the summer and how we need help to meet this need." Sort-A-Rama served as a great opportunity to kick start preparation for this need, and could not have been possible without all the volunteers, including over 200 Food Lion employees that attended, eager to serve and give back.
"We could not run the food bank without Food Lion feeds. . . . They donate so much product, and serve as one of our largest food donors, [as well as] a tremendous financial donor," said Kay.
Even Leo the lion was present at the event as employees from Food Lion and other companies continued to file into the Charlotte Convention Center Thursday morning. Many, such as Food Lion store 1680 employee Wanda Barnett, have been serving at the event for three years and look forward to it, stating, "It just feels good to get with other members of your company and support causes like this."
As the event has grown over the years, employees have grown more and more excited, even inviting first time associates to the event. "This is my first time here volunteering, and it feels like family just to see everybody here working together as one unit for one cause," said one associate.
Overall, the event was a success as associates worked together to give back to the community, boost morale, and cheer each other on as rice and bean scoopers flew and boxes of meals were packed for hungry families in the Charlotte community.
A Sort-a Big Deal in Raleigh
One thousand people working together can do a lot of good.
So when more than 1,000 people – 225 of them Food Lion associates – joined the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina in Raleigh, North Carolina this week for their annual Sort-a-Rama event, it was clear that something amazing was going to take place.
This fact held to be true as, in just a few short hours, the group sorted through 126,000 pounds of rice, packed 40,000 breakfasts, and 50,000 lunches to help children and families in need fight hunger this summer.
Mike Hall, Food Lion director of operations in the Henderson region north of Raleigh, said, "at Food Lion, we're passionate about helping to end hunger, and [we] just love partnering with the food bank year round, and our fellow corporate partners, to help end hunger in the communities we are proud to serve each and every day. I'm so proud of each of our Food Lion volunteers volunteering here today with me to make sure no one goes hungry by sorting meals and giving back to a cause that we're all so passionate about."
As teams of Food Lion associates gathered around 1,000 pound bulk sacks of rice, scooping the rice into family-sized bags for hungry families, others gathered around tables packing bags full of breakfast or lunch items that will go to area students who will no longer be able to get a healthy meal when school recesses for summer.
It was a busy morning, but a very rewarding one, and the excitement is already building for the next partnership event with the food bank, as everyone understands that much more work needs to be done.
Together, all three locations across North Carolina grouped an array of different companies together under one common cause: to help their fellow community members in need. Each event was a success and companies are already looking forward to participating next year as well.