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. Christine Cotton, Debbie Horwitz and Susan Romaine are co-founders of PORCH, an hunger relief organization based out of Chapel Hill. For more information, visit https://chapelhill.porchcommunities.org/.
Later this week, school lets out for over 12,000 students in Chapel Hill-Carrboro. Most of these students eagerly await leisurely summers dotted with s’mores, sprinklers, and sidewalk chalk. But, for the nearly 3,500 CHCCS students receiving free or reduced price meals, there can be a very different anticipation to summer. What will they eat for breakfast and lunch now that they no longer have access to school cafeterias? How will their family stretch its SNAP benefits to cover the two extra meals a day? For these 3,500 students, hunger doesn’t take a vacation. It can be that nagging mosquito that you keep trying to swat away, but it just keeps coming back – until it’s all you can think about, it’s all-consuming.
Fortunately, we live in a community that mobilizes its resources each summer to try to fill at least some of this gap for some of our most vulnerable kids. One of the hunger relief organizations that steps up its game is PORCH Chapel Hill-Carrboro, a volunteer-driven non-profit organization that runs a fresh food program specifically aimed at families with children in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. All of the families that PORCH serves have been identified by school social workers as food insecure. All of our families are living in poverty. And, all of our kids are eligible for free and reduced price meals during the school year, that suddenly disappear over the summer.
Out of the roughly 3,500 CHCCS students eligible for free and reduced price meals, PORCH Chapel Hill-Carrboro proudly serves 940 of them, or over one in four. Thanks to dozens of dedicated volunteers, these 428 families receive three bags filled to the brim with fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs and chicken, each and every month of the year. In addition, each of our families receives one large bag of non-perishable items collected through our monthly neighborhood food drives. During the summer months, we try to add a little extra to those bags to compensate for the missing meals in school cafeterias. “We couldn’t make it through the month without it,” says one PORCH client.
To help us get more fresh food into the hands of local kids and their families this summer, mail a check payable to PORCH Chapel Hill-Carrboro at P.O. Box 16363, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-6363. Make an online donation here. Or, email us about volunteer opportunities here. Thank you for your support!