PORCH Hillsborough Partners with Farmer Foodshare to Feed Families Fresh Food – and Support Local Growers
PORCH’s model is simple. Donors leave a bag of nonperishable food on their front porch once a month and volunteers collect that food and get it to local pantries for distribution. This allows the gaps in the existing food bank system to be filled at the local level.
Most chapter leaders launch their organization by reaching out to a single food pantry to discuss their needs. Then, they talk to neighbors and organize their first monthly food drive through the PORCH for Pantries program.
PORCH Hillsborough, in North Carolina, began their program 13 years ago, collecting food from just three neighborhoods in the early days. Their first donation to the Orange Congregations in Mission food pantry weighed 240 pounds.
Two years ago – with the chapter having grown significantly over time – they launched a pantry in partnership with Orange County Schools. Every month, volunteers collect about 4,500 pounds of non-perishable food, then sort it, pack it, and distribute it to 150 families that have been identified by social workers from all 13 schools in the school system.
Last year the chapter partnered with Farmer Foodshare to launch the PORCH Fresh program with the goal of providing fresh and local food boxes for those 150 school families.
PORCH Fresh Is A Win for Farmers – and Families
Durham-based Farmer Foodshare sources fresh food year-round from small and mid-scale North Carolina farms and producers and sells it wholesale to a host of organizations; schools and universities, grocery stores and restaurants, and hunger relief organizations. This creates new revenue opportunities for small farms that otherwise would not produce sufficient volume to sell directly to large institutions. The organizations benefit as well because they can purchase produce from multiple local farms yet work through just one vendor.
PORCH Hillsborough Volunteer Director Linda Leikin says she is excited to “keep local farmers engaged throughout the winter.” “The idea,” she says, “is to be feeding people with resources from our own community. The farmers have an income stream, and our families have fresh food.”
An Abundance of Ingredients
Each box of fresh food costs the chapter $27 a month. In colder months, PORCH Hillsborough adds fresh meat, bread, eggs, and cheese, as their budget permits.
“If someone is dealing with food insecurity, they should have access to the same food we eat. They shouldn’t be left to try to make a meal from an odd collection of random non-perishables. Racial and social equity begins with food equity,” she adds.
A Fresher Future
Through their programs, PORCH Hillsborough serves over 400 families each month.
“In an ideal world, we would love to offer that much fresh, reliable food to the other 250-plus families in our network,” Linda says.
Fundraisers like Round Up, at Weaver Street Market in Hillsborough support PORCH by asking shoppers to round up to the next dollar when purchasing their groceries. That money helps cover the costs of PORCH Fresh.
In 2022, PORCH Hillsborough donated 51,000 pounds of non-perishables, 62,000 pounds of fresh food, and $55,000 in grocery gift cards to members of the community. This totals more than $188,500 in hunger relief to Hillsborough and northern Orange County. More fresh food will be distributed in the years to come as the chapter continues to build momentum in the community.