Filling the Gap: Feeding Hungry Families in Rocky Mount

food boxes

When the Coronavirus pandemic hit last spring, many in Nash and Edgecombe Counties lost jobs and were being forced to choose between buying medicine and buying food. The Harrison Family YMCA in Rocky Mount has been filling the gap to provide families with food since April. To date, the Y has delivered more than 100,000 pounds of food to those in need.

“We jumped in with both feet when we were forced to close our fitness facilities in March,” said Liz Lord, Senior Engagement Director at the Y. “Pre-COVID, our Y was working on strategic planning with feeding programs as part of our mission work. Little did we know how vital this would become for our community so quickly, nor how blessed we would be to partner with so many wonderful organizations to feed children, families and seniors in need,” she continued.

Purposeful Produce, Virtual Cooking Classes and Community Outreach

Last week, the Y launched Purposeful Produce, an initiative in partnership with Ripe Revival Market. Along with the Down East Partnership for Children and the Boys and Girls Club of the Tar River Region, the Y is able to deliver produce boxes to additional families in need in Rocky Mount. To start, the Y is delivering about 30 of Ripe Revival’s Community Supported Produce Boxes through their Purposeful Produce partnership. “For every box purchased, a box is donated to someone in need,” Lord said. “We hope to see this program grow because we already have people on a waiting list.”

The Y is also partnering with the Edgecombe County Extension Office’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) to offer a virtual cooking class every Tuesday for 7 weeks starting February 9. The class will teach parents how to cook on a limited budget with some items in the box for each week. The first 26 people that sign up for the class will receive a free produce box each week during the program, thanks to the Y and Ripe Revival Market providing those boxes.

In addition to these new programs, the Y delivers about 80 food boxes a week through other food programs begun last spring. On Mondays, the Y delivers 30 food boxes to families through a connection with the school system’s English as a Second Language teachers and Nash County Public Schools Migrant Education staff. “Boxes include culturally appealing and appropriate shelf-stable foods, such as dried beans, rice, tortillas, limes, cooking oil and more,” Lord said. On Wednesdays, the Y delivers to families identified through the Housing Authority and referred by other community partners.

“The YMCA brought me a box of vegetables and food when I wasn’t able to get them. I am crying tears of happiness and thanking the good Lord for sending the YMCA my way!,” said Ms. Lulu, one of the box recipients.  

Partnering with A Touch of the Father’s Love Food Pantry, Apostolic Faith Church, Communities in Schools, Edgecombe and Nash County Public Schools staff, and United Way Tar River Region, YMCA staff and a dedicated Y volunteer deliver the boxes to families who are unable to get to the food pantries in the area.

“We’re so grateful to our members and donors who make this possible,” Lord said. “We have learned so much through this work and will continue to support and go into the communities where we are needed.”

(Jan. 25, 2021)