PORCH’s Origin Story: From a Few Cans of Tuna to More Than $10 Million in Hunger Relief
I never anticipated working on hunger relief. Then, my older son asked to bring extra sandwiches to school.
He told me the extra sandwiches were to help him bulk up. Not giving it much thought, I began packing two sandwiches every morning. A few weeks later, I dug deeper. Why the sudden need for multiple sandwiches? He sheepishly revealed that one of his best buddies didn’t have enough food – he would eat his school-provided lunch during the day and take the sandwiches home for dinner.
At that moment, I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with pride that my middle school aged son was helping out a friend. And overwhelmed with guilt that I lived in our community of Chapel Hill, North Carolina and did not know that there were so many kids who did not have enough to eat every day.
Removing the Barriers
My son and those sandwiches led me to several conversations regarding food insecurity in our town. Two good friends, Debbie Horwitz and Susan Romaine, told me they were starting to collect cans of tuna for a local pantry. (The pantry had suggested that they focus on that protein-filled, shelf-stable item.) We quickly joined forces and began asking friends to leave cans of tuna on their front porches. Then, we’d collect the donations and deliver them to the pantry. Soon, those friends were asking their friends! And so began the network of the canned meat ladies! (Fortunately, that unflattering name did not stick.)
After a few months of collecting tuna, the pantry graciously informed us that we had overwhelmed them with that particular shelf-stable item. But we knew that we were onto something. Asking people to leave non-perishable items on their porches – rice, peanut butter, pasta, canned vegetables, cereal, and more – so that local volunteers could collect the food and deliver it to pantries was a simple and replicable model. Almost all of our donors had every intention of bringing food to a pantry; however, so many didn’t know what items to contribute or even where to deliver. Many times, they would actually have food in the back of their cars, driving it around for weeks at a time because they just weren’t able to fit this errand into their hectic schedules.
By providing a list of what was needed and doing the logistical legwork, we removed those barriers. Donors felt rewarded by giving and grateful that we had made it so easy.
A PORCH in Every Community
Thirteen years and more than 30 chapters in 10 states later, PORCH remains committed to keeping it simple when it comes to giving and receiving nourishing food.
Donors just need to leave food on their porches so that volunteer Neighborhood Coordinators can pick it up. Through monthly drives, our consistency provides an ongoing and stable supply of food for pantries and program participants. We are inclusive – anyone can help by donating, collecting, sorting, distributing, or organizing volunteers in as little as a few hours a month. And we are flexible. Coordinators can request that neighbors donate specific items as required by a pantry or program any given month, to best meet the needs of the pantries and families we serve.
PORCH personifies the power of one: one time a month, one Neighborhood Coordinator, one street, one porch, even just one canned good. If each of us steps up, it’s amazing what we as a community can accomplish. It may take you to a place you would never have imagined in your wildest dreams.