Events to help stock pantry shelves
by Sherrie Norris
According to the organization's Executive Director Compton Fortuna, six food assistance programs are being offered at the agency to help families in crisis situations -- and all are nearly stretched to their limits.
Fortuna said that what was once considered "crisis" for many people, has now become a way of life.
"Rising food and fuel prices have had devastating effects on the community's low income populations," she said. "Already living paycheck to paycheck, these families are now struggling more just to get by."
Fortuna, her staff and volunteers, which includes a hands-on board of directors who work closely to meet the growing demands of their clients, know that financial limitations force families to make choices between food, medicine and shelter - described by Fortuna as "basic needs that we all share."
"We are dedicated to assisting families during tough times, while helping them find positive alternatives and potential solutions," she said.
The agency has come up with several ways to involve the community in its efforts to keep families fed in the coming months.
"With the national campaign focusing on September, we feel this is a perfect time to encourage our community to take action locally to help us fight hunger," she said.
The food pantry "is in great need of food" after experiencing "one of the most demanding summers in our history," she said.
"We are asking High Country residents to do whatever they can to help us fill the shelves, whether through food donations or monetary contributions to purchase food," she said.
Mission at work
The mission of the Hunger and Health Coalition has not changed since the organization was established in 1982.
As a private, nonprofit organization actively serving the community for 31 years, its goal is to relieve poverty and hunger in a compassionate manner, for families and individuals who are experiencing economic hardship and food shortages, Fortuna said.
Assistance may include food, medicine and referrals to other community resources for more permanent solutions.
Each month, the agency provides food to an average of 900 families or about 2,000 people through food boxes and repackaged meals.
One in every three people fed is a child younger than 18, and, according to Fortuna, the number of children receiving food assistance has increased 35 percent compared to this time last year, with 571 children served in August.
Fortuna reminds potential donors that contributions are tax deductible and every dollar stays in the community.
For every $1 contributed, the HHC can provide $7 of groceries to local families, she said.
Local residents who are preparing to stay away from their mountain homes during the winter might consider bringing unopened food from the pantry and freezer to the Hunger and Health Coalition.
Even a few extra cans of food are helpful, Fortuna said.
"Every day, someone comes in needing food and we can make good use of all donations," she said.
Fresh, frozen and canned foods are accepted - but that's not all.
"Nonfood products, such as shampoo, soap and cleaning products are also appreciated and helps our clients stretch their dollars even further," she said.
Clothing, small household items and appliances also can be contributed.
"We can certainly use those, too, in our 'Pass It On' program, which we distribute at no charge to the recipients," she said.
To make donating easier, collection boxes have been placed at various locations across the High Country, including Maw's Produce in Foscoe, Fred's General Mercantile on Beech Mountain and at the Blowing Rock Country Club in Blowing Rock.
Homecoming Run For Hunger
The Hunger and Health Coalition is hosting its inaugural Run for Hunger, a 5K run and walk, on Saturday, Oct. 12.
Executive Director Compton Fortuna said the event, planned around homecoming festivities at Appalachian State University, means football, food and fun for many in the community.
"But for the less fortunate, it's just another day in the struggle to feed their family," Fortuna said.
Participating in the event is just one more way to help feed a family for a week.
"We're expecting a big turnout," Fortuna said. "Since there will be so many folks in town for the afternoon game, we hope they might want to do something special, like run or walk with us, in the morning."
The event will take place on the Greenway Trail, beginning with race-day registration at 8 a.m. at the Clawson-Burnley Park.
Richard Stevens, race director and board member, said the event kicks off at 9 a.m.
He said awards and prizes will be given out after the race, with plenty of time to get to the pregame festivities.
Stevens encourages participants to preregister online at http://www.hungerandhealthcoalition.com and take advantage of the early-bird discount.
ASU students and families are especially encouraged to participate.
"This will be a fun event for the entire community that will help us in our continuous efforts to feed the hungry in our neighborhood," Fortuna said. "The need is only going to escalate as the colder weather moves in, so anything we can do now will help later."
For more information about the race, email Stevens at (email@example.com) or call (828) 266-1804. The HHC is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
For more information, visit http://www.hungerandhealthcoalition.com or call (828) 262-1628. The Hunger and Health Coalition is a member of the High Country United Way.