Local food pantry serves more families bread and faith
by Jeff Eason
But did you know that Blowing Rock is also home to a food pantry that serves about 300 people each month?
"We serve 18 counties, but most of our clients are from the Blowing Rock and Watauga County area," said Susan Stutts, director of the Casting Bread Food Pantry, an arm of FaithBridge United Methodist Church on Aho Road.
Every Tuesday, a truck on loan from Aaron's Rentals brings around a ton of food from the Hunger and Health Coalition in Boone, courtesy of the Second Harvest Food Bank.
"We used to have to pick it up ourselves, but Aaron's Rentals has been kind enough to use one of their trucks to do it for us," said Diann Miller, one of the volunteer coordinators of Casting Bread Food Pantry.
After the food arrives from Boone, volunteers check it for freshness and organize it on shelves in the pantry and in large freezers.
"It's an all-day process," Stutts said. "We start at 9 in the morning and finish putting everything away by about 3 in the afternoon."
According to Stutts, finding food from other sources has been essential to Casting Bread and the demand is greater than ever.
Donation collection boxes are located at the Dollar Tree, Boone Drug and Sears. The donations go a long way to help meet the needs.
Casting Bread Food Pantry also has a soup kitchen that provides meals to people from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
"Lately, we've been serving a lot of people," Stutts said. "Some will eat lunch both days. A lot of them are the same people who need food from our pantry."
According to Stutts, Casting Bread Food Pantry provided food for 236 households in October, with an average of four family members in each household.
"We had more than 50 people come in one day last week," she said.
While the majority of the people who come in for food are from Watauga and Ashe counties, the food pantry also serves families from Alamance, Caswell, Guilford, Randolph, Alexander, Alleghany, Caldwell, Davidson, Iredell, Surry, Wilkes, Davie, Forsyth, Rockingham, Stokes and Yadkin counties.
"Unlike the Hunger Coalition, which prepares boxes of food for families ahead of time, we let people choose what they want from our pantry," Stutts said. "That way, if there is a diet consideration like diabetes or allergies to gluten, they can customize their food."
Stutts said that the pantry does have restrictions on certain items such as meat, sugary products and bread.
Right now, because the pantry has been short on food, persons are limited in the number of items they can take during a weekly visit. A one-person family can take 20 items, a two-person family can take 22 items, a three-person family can take 24 items and so on.
The food pantry also has a number of personal hygiene items, such as toothbrushes, deodorant and soap that clients can choose from.
"We also create treat bags for kids that have things in them such as crackers, apple sauce, cookies, Ramen noodles and toothbrushes," Miller said.
While many people might believe that Casting Bread receives food from the Second Harvest Food Bank free of charge, it actually pays the organization 19 cents a pound for the food to help cover costs, such as labor and gasoline.
In addition to items from the Second Harvest Food Bank, Casting Bread Food Pantry also receives food from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program and the federal TEFAP program, as well as from the F.A.R.M. Caf, Panera Bread, Green Street Catering, Boone Meat Center and other local businesses.
"The Dollar Tree has really stepped up to help us," Stutts said. "They put a donation box in their store and they have items on their counter that customers are encouraged to buy and donate. We get about 200 pounds of items from them every week."
Stutts said that some of the most vital things the pantry receives are canned goods, boxed meals and shelf-stable milk that stay good for up to a year.
The food pantry also accepts monetary and food donations from individuals.
"We're a faith-based organization, but we don't push it on anybody," she said. "We'll honor clients' prayer requests if they want us to pray with them, but that is not a requirement to come here and volunteer or receive food."
Volunteers at Casting Bread Food Pantry include Jessie McCann, Greg Buchanan, George Collis, Ralph Miller, Mark Stutts, Slyvia Coffey, Marsha Quinn, Robbie Barry, Janet Sprecht, Terry Cole, Kyle Keeter, Ann Holshauser, Lucy Saunders, Stanley Saunders and Mike Hughes. Delivery volunteers this past Tuesday included Charles Beck, Dustin Rhodes and Anthony Crabb. For more information, call the Casting Bread Food Pantry at (828) 295-8333.