PORCH Chapel Hill-Carrboro, a grassroots hunger relief organization providing essential food support to at-risk families in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, has hired its first executive director: Sarah Dudzic.
Dudzic started her career in teaching, and from there, started working in adult learning and education. She has also worked at nonprofits for domestic violence, sexual assault, homelessness and mental illness, among other areas.
“One of the things that really drew me to PORCH, is that in every one of those nonprofit jobs I've ever had, food was a core piece that we had to help the people we were working with get to,” she said.
Dudzic said no matter the nonprofit organization, having food on hand was an important part of helping those they served.
Susan Romaine, chairperson of the PORCH's board of directors and a founder of the organization, said over email that adding an executive director will ensure the sustainability of PORCH for the future. She said Dudzic will help structure and prioritize all of the activities for its programs and services.
Board member Toska Cooper was on the search committee for the new executive director. She said Dudzic exceeded the basic qualifications of the job with her diverse set of skills and background.
“Sarah will bring a diverse skill set that's going to help enhance the programs and maybe close the gap in some areas where we might be missing connections, such as a person that's receiving food but a person that also might need a little bit of social work support,” Cooper said.
She said the way Dudzic looks at things with a holistic approach, not just looking at food insecurity as a single-standing problem, will help lift the organization and its efforts.
Romaine said Dudzic’s passion for lifting up vulnerable and marginalized community members also made her the ideal candidate for this position.
“Sarah looks at PORCH through a racial lens while also looking at wrap-around services to help address some of the root causes of hunger," she said.
Dudzic said she will be looking at these issues from an equity point of view. She said food insecurity is associated with race and poverty, and in the United States, these problems historically go back to zoning laws, such as redlining and voting laws, among others.
“It's so deeply embedded in the fabric of our history in this country,” she said. “So unraveling that is going to take a massive herculean-full community effort, and we want to be at the forefront of it and we want to be part of it.
Romaine said food insecurity is a major problem in the area, as 1 in 7 residents in Orange County were identified as food insecure, and the pandemic has only exacerbated these challenges.
She said over 85 percent of PORCH clients have reported loss of income since the pandemic began, and 77 percent of clients worry about having enough food for their families. She also said many are worried about losing health care and falling behind on rent and other bills.
Dudzic said while the pandemic has had direct impacts on the residents, it has also had an effect on the entire food system from supply chain issues to higher prices because of supply and demand.
Because of the pandemic, Cooper said the organization needed someone who was full of energy and drive, and Dudzic is exactly that person.
“I feel incredibly grateful to be welcomed and invited into this organization, and I'm very committed to moving the organization to the next level,” Dudzic said.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.