With support from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, a Rockingham County group plans to expand a free mobile food pantry that will serve organizations across the county to streamline food collection, storage, and distribution and prevent duplication of efforts between organizations working on food access. This investment is part of the Trust’s long-term Healthy Places NC initiative, which announced a series of grants awarded to organizations across the state.
Rockingham County’s L.O.T. 2540 will receive $198,304 to support the expansion of its mobile food pantry which currently resides in an old box truck. L.O.T. 2540 began in 2010 when Marty Roberts and David Burnette had an encounter with a homeless family. This experience highlighted for them that there were people in Rockingham County who are struggling with poverty without many community resources to turn to for help. They founded L.O.T. 2540 with a goal of forming relationships with their clients and through those connections help them achieve self-sufficiency.
L.O.T. 2540 will use the funding for a new mobile pantry with electricity for refrigerated foods and a cafe with programs to serve Rockingham County residents who have previously been difficult to reach. Programs will include food tastings, cooking demonstrations, classroom space for health care consultations, food stamp outreach, and financial counseling. Staff members will also help track what resources clients of the mobile food pantry need so that providers can follow up and connect them with the appropriate services.
“This isn’t just about delivering food to those who need it; we like to say that we are building healthy relationships. We take care of our clients’ most immediate needs so they can focus on building healthier lives,” said Marty Roberts, executive director of L.O.T. 2540. “This grant will allow our team and our partners to take the show on the road and connect people across the county with the services they need. It will also allow us to collect feedback from our clients so we can make sure their voices are heard as our community plans for the future.”
L.O.T. 2540 chose to focus on a mobile pantry because it has found that clients are more receptive to utilizing its services when the assistance is in their own neighborhoods. The organization expects the new pantry to be out in the community an average of 3-4 days a week and serve an estimated 15,000 individuals in its first year. The pantry will be available to partner organizations throughout the county.
“Living a healthier life is about more than just access to health care. A major piece of the Trust’s Healthy Places NC work is looking at factors beyond the hospital walls that impact a person’s well being. Supporting food access and wrap around support for families is just one piece of our mission to ensure equitable access to quality health care, economic opportunities and educational attainment in the communities we serve,” said Laura Gerald, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. “In addition to doing great work, the new food pantry will also look great, which will allow it to blend directly into neighborhoods, community farmers markets and at other community events. It is a seamless way for the community to deliver needed services while taking some of the stigma out of receiving assistance.”
Rockingham County joined the Healthy Places NC initiative in 2013. The Trust plans to invest $100 million in 10 to 12 rural counties over a 10-year period. To date, the Trust has invited seven counties—McDowell, Beaufort, Burke, Halifax, Rockingham, Edgecombe and Nash Counties—to participate and will announce additional counties in the coming years. In each county, Healthy Places NC work and projects are driven by the community’s concerns, and the Trust works in partnership with residents toward sustainable, long-term change.