The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday July 23rd

Column: Building community while increasing access to local, fresh food

Debbie Horwitz, one of PORCH Chapel Hill-Carrboro's co-founders, is packing lettuce into PORCH’s fresh food bags. Photo courtesy of Mary Solis.
Buy Photos Debbie Horwitz, one of PORCH Chapel Hill-Carrboro's co-founders, is packing lettuce into PORCH’s fresh food bags. Photo courtesy of Mary Solis.

The OC Voice is a portion of the OC Report newsletter where local residents may have a platform to talk about local issues they care about.  

Debbie Horwitz is one of the founders of PORCH Chapel Hill-Carrboro and is the director of its fresh Food for Families Program. To join their grassroots hunger relief effort, please visit chapelhill.porchcommunities.org.

With so many nonprofits addressing hunger in our community, you may wonder how PORCH Chapel Hill-Carrboro fits into the picture. PORCH started right here at home in Chapel Hill in May of 2010, and has grown intentionally to fill unmet needs. Food for Families is PORCH’s largest program, unique in providing large quantities of fresh and local food to families who are mostly living below poverty level and do not typically access other hunger relief resources due to various barriers. 

With nearly 30 percent of local, school-aged children eligible for free and reduced-price meals, Food for Families works closely with school social workers to identify families at risk of food insecurity. Their referrals have been spot-on — 90 percent of surveyed PORCH recipients report that, in the past six months, it is sometimes or often true that they "were hungry but didn't eat because there wasn't enough money for food." One recipient put the need for PORCH food even more succinctly: “We wouldn’t make it through the month without it.”

This clear need for sufficient, nutritious food is met with the help of hundreds of generous donors living in 160 neighborhoods across Chapel Hill-Carrboro. Their contributions to PORCH’s monthly neighborhood food drives enable us to provide families a week’s worth of produce, each and every month. The grocery list includes onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, apples, oranges, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, kale, green beans, tomatoes, lettuce, bunches of bananas, eggs, milk and chicken. As summer approaches, PORCH is able to provide an even more abundant selection of locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables. 


High school students help PORCH Chapel Hill-Carrboro with the organization's summer 2018 fresh food deliveries at Homestead Aquatic Center. Photo courtesy of PORCH NC.


Currently, over 1,870 individuals in 425 families are served. PORCH delivers at sites around town where families of all backgrounds feel safe and welcomed. It is a snapshot of our community at its very best. Children pick out free books from nonprofit partner Book Harvest. A free flea market offers clothing and household goods to newly arrived refugee families. PORCH cooks provides simple, healthy recipes utilizing the food provided. 

What is the common theme in our approach to hunger relief? It’s local! Food for Families collaborates with other organizations like Transplanting Traditions Community Farm, Farmer Foodshare and Weaver Street Market to source local produce. Through fliers in grocery bags and translators at our delivery sites, we connect our clients to Orange County Literacy, The Compass Center and all kinds of other social services. Finally, scores of dedicated community volunteers come together each month to hand deliver the fresh food into the hands of local families who need it the most. In this way, PORCH’s goals align with those of our community: increase access to fresh, local food and build connections so we all can thrive. We are neighbors helping neighbors!

If you live in Orange County and want to make your voice heard on something you care about locally, email city@dailytarheel.com. 


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