It’s been a busy year at Feeding Avery Families as they expand initiatives and space to help eliminate hunger in Avery County. During the past 12 months, the non-profit provided more than half a million pounds of groceries, produce, bread and frozen meats at no cost to thousands of local families in need. Their much larger operations center in Newland should be completed by year’s end.
Most of the work at Feeding Avery Families is carried out by more than a hundred volunteers. In addition to 48 distribution Fridays each year at their center in Newland, they deliver hundreds of packs of food to senior citizens and school children each week. In efforts to reach even more families, new programs are in the works.
“We’re going to begin a partnership with the Community Association in the old Beech Mountain area in the northern tip of Avery to deliver food to some of their neighbors unable to come to us,” says Feeding Avery Families Co-Director Dick Larson. “Hopefully this will be a model that we will use elsewhere in the county.”
Additional efforts are also in the works to reach seasonal Hispanic families on area farms, and the organization is looking for help. “There are probably more than 300 families whom we might be able to help,” reports Feeding Avery Families Co-Director Jo-Ann McMurray. “We really need some Spanish-speaking volunteers to help members of this community feel welcome when they come on Fridays. We hope to hire a part-time Hispanic coordinator by next spring to help us with this outreach effort.”
Meanwhile, their new 10,000 square foot building at 189 Old Vale Road in Newland is well underway. It will double the size of the current distribution center with increased storage and cooler/freezer space to allow them to receive even more free or reduced priced food in bulk quantities. Currently, they secure 88% of their food at no cost, taking advantage of a variety of governmental programs and last-minute opportunities from MANNA FoodBank. In fact, their current food cost for a meal is just 30 cents per person.
The new facility will also introduce the Community Health Initiative with nutrition education and cooking classes in a demonstration kitchen. The program’s goal is to improve people’s diet and health. The total cost of the facility is $1.3 million. So far, they have raised $791,000 and are finalizing a loan for the remainder.
“We are so grateful for many donations and grants, including $90,000 from High Country Charitable Foundation this week, to purchase our walk-in freezer, cooler and other kitchen and office equipment,” says Larson. Other recent grants include a $100,000 grant from the Canon Foundation and donations from Wee Kirk and Arbor Dale Presbyterian Churches. Additional grant applications are awaiting approval.