Transitioning from a Grassroots Hunger Relief Effort to a National Nonprofit

By Christine Cotton
Fight Hunger

Over ten years ago, when PORCH first started in Chapel Hill, there was an immediate curiosity from neighboring communities who were interested in replicating the monthly neighborhood food drive model. I really enjoyed working with these community volunteers and helping them start and build local PORCH operations.  Over the years, I tracked and documented all that we were doing in Chapel Hill and created templates for all of our processes. People would hear about PORCH through friends, or by visiting Chapel Hill and experiencing it for themselves and deciding to bring the model to their community. A few even heard about PORCH through a hunger relief Facebook page.  New chapter growth was steady. 

Then, COVID hit and the need for hunger relief grew and the desire to help in a safe and efficient way resonated even more. It was the right time to think about how we might be able to scale and expand the PORCH model to even more communities to help address a need that exists across our country. 

Knowing that PORCH Chapel Hill was in good hands, and that with a focused effort so many more communities could start their own local hunger relief initiative, I knew it was time to redirect my energy  into creating  an organization that would help the existing PORCH communities as well as help local leaders that want to bring the model to their hometowns.

In April 2020 I reached out to Michael Frisch and Steve Spokane, two amazingly dedicated and talented professionals, who also believed in the mission of supporting hunger relief and the effectiveness of the replicable PORCH model. Together, we established PORCH Communities as a new national entity dedicated to starting, supporting and growing community-based chapters in every state.  PORCH Communities works closely to support local leaders who start, sustain and grow PORCH chapters.  Our main focus is to help chapters mobilize their community to  develop and sustain a monthly food drive program in partnership with local pantries. Each chapter manages its own monthly food drive and expands at its own pace, often adding programs to provide healthy snacks to schoolchildren and fresh food to families in need.

By providing operational guidance, funding, collaborative support, and marketing assistance, PORCH Communitiesenables local leaders to quickly and easily launch and, over time, grow their hunger relief and food insecurity programs. Chapters receive turnkey programs for organizing volunteers, digital tools and proven expertise from those who have done it before. Most of all, they are connected with a network of like-minded changemakers from the PORCH Communities board and staff and their incredible peer chapter leaders. The community shares best practices and helps each other out in a way that continually inspires and motivates me.

By spreading the PORCH “neighbors helping neighbors” model, citizens across the country are becoming better equipped to fight hunger and food insecurity in their towns. These community-based hunger relief organizations support local pantries, schools and families, filling gaps in traditional hunger relief systems.

We estimate that in 2021, PORCH Communities chapters will support 50 local pantries and provide over 600,000 meals worth more than $1.3 million in hunger relief all at the local level. This tremendous impact on food insecurity will be accomplished through a dedicated volunteer network that will contribute over 60,000 volunteer hours.

For me, what started out as a local project has become a passion to empower local leaders wherever they may live. Our vision is to have a PORCH in every community and from what I’ve experienced this is achievable. To sponsor the start up of our next 25 chapters or to learn how to bring PORCH to your town, please contact me or anyone on the PORCH Communities team.