GREENSBORO — Soon local programs feeding the needy will get a chance to pull from the freezers of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina’s new satellite office in the city.
Second Harvest, which focuses on the connection between hunger and health, is one of a handful of regional food banks in the state. Now, its Greensboro Distribution and Nutrition Education Center at the Renaissance Shops on Phillips Avenue is stocking its shelves and will be a pivotal part of the venerable agency’s outreach to the region.
The 10,650-square-foot building includes 2,200 square feet of freezer/cooler storage lining the walls that will supply community pantries, kitchens and shelters. Yet to be filled, it is a largely open area with space set aside for classes on healthy eating and food preparation. Agencies can pull up to a loading dock at the rear of the building to pick up orders set aside on pallets.
The agency and its “Everyone Deserves to Eat” campaign also chose one of the city’s food deserts — so-named because residents living in these areas have limited access to fresh fruit and produce — to base its operation.
While Second Harvest serves communities throughout 18 North Carolina counties, the satellite distribution center will create a hub in the service area for Guilford, Alamance, Randolph, Rockingham and Caswell counties.
“Fortunately we have many partners in this area,” said Eric Aft, the CEO of Second Harvest, during a tour on Monday morning.
While the pandemic pushed up the timetable to open, the agency had for years been looking to expand.
For some nonprofits, a steady stream of goods from Second Harvest is what fuels their ability to serve their clientele and, in some ways, provides a lifeline to keep them going. The Winston-Salem-based operation moves tons of donated food to nonprofit organizations that help the hungry, ranging from Greensboro Urban Ministry to the N.C. A&T Aggie Food Pantry.
City Councilwoman Goldie Wells, whose district encompasses the new Second Harvest site, called the agency an ally and advocate for area families.
“We want to get rid of that phrase ‘food desert,’” Wells said.
Nearly 100 of the more than 430 food-assistance programs Second Harvest serves are in Greensboro and High Point. Collectively these programs rely on Second Harvest for more than 80% of the food they provide for people in their communities.
For Second Harvest’s fiscal year, which ended in June 30, 2020, this equated to 10.8 million pounds of food — or 8.4 million meals — in Guilford County alone.
A capital campaign led by co-chairs Jim and Marianne Bennett raised about $2.5 million to renovate and operate the Renaissance Shops site for three years. With this location, local agencies won’t have to send volunteers and others to Winston-Salem to retrieve food for distribution. The distance prevented some from being able to more frequently pick up produce and other perishable items.