What a year it was for Feeding Avery Families, a non-profit organization fighting hunger in Avery County, North Carolina! The first couple of months of 2020 were “business as usual” as they worked on several new initiatives. Then COVID-19 hit in March. They immediately pivoted their distribution on Fridays from client-choice shopping inside to drive-through pick-up outside. The hard-working volunteers didn’t blink as they adjusted routines and came up with many “out of the box” ideas to get food to a growing number of hungry families.
Here are some of the highlights from 2020:
- Feeding Avery Families received and distributed 746,000 pounds of food, roughly 50% more than 2019. That was enough food to provide approximately 622,000 individual meals! Amazingly, 86% of food was given at no cost to FAF through various governmental programs, MANNA FoodBank and business donations. Read about our generous partners.
- More than 350 volunteers kept the wheels turning during the year. As many had to step back due to the pandemic, many others stepped forward to ensure smooth operations. See more about volunteering with us.
- Every Thursday, FAF received deliveries of up to 30,000 pounds of food – including canned and boxed groceries, fresh produce and frozen meats. Volunteers unpacked pallets, stocked shelves and sorted items for multiple distribution initiatives.
- On Distribution Fridays, they served an average of 546 families (or 1,348+ individuals) per month. Each family received 60+ pounds of food – including boxes of groceries, frozen meats, produce, bread, juices and milk.
- In January, they dedicated five Community Food Pantries, open 24/7 and located on the grounds of schools: Avery County High, Newland Elementary, Riverside Elementary, Banner Elk Elementary, and Cranberry Middle/Freedom Trail Elementary. These pantries were built by Avery High Carpentry Students. In June 2020, their food pantry in Crossnore opened behind Fellowship Presbyterian Church. These distributed about 5,000 pounds of food each month.
- The Backpack Program evolved in response to quickly changing challenges. While school was in session, FAF provided 125 children with two backpacks each week to provide enough food for 12 meals.
- While schools were closed, FAF partnered with First Things Foundation and Avery County Schools to deliver food directly to the homes of school children – following bus routes to 77 families each week.
- The new Nutrition Center and Annex opened in a nearby space. While FAF had planned to kick off the new Community Health Education Initiative in 2020 to help people improve their diets and health, the pandemic put that on hold. Little did they know, the extra space was desperately needed to store the additional food FAF received and distributed.
- Inside each of the 9 Avery County Schools, they stocked a pantry to provide snacks for teachers to give to hungry students during the school day.
- In continued efforts to provide healthy food, FAF gave away more than 80 TONS of fresh produce during 2020. During the summer, FAF partnered with a local farm to distribute fresh farm produce to homes of school children.
- The once-a-month Community Markets partnership with Avery County Schools and MANNA FoodBank served up to 250 families a month, with nearly 13,000 pounds of food each time. With the increased demand, they moved the location to the former Lowes Food store in Newland.
- Thanks to a generous donor who loves our furry friends, FAF provided free pet food on most distribution Fridays.
- High Country Charitable Foundation with AMY Wellness Foundation awarded a $50,000 grant to FAF to purchase a van for mobile services programs including the pantries and school backpacks. The van should arrive in the spring of 2021.
- High Country Charitable Foundation funded the purchase of 600 Thanksgiving turkeys to give away during November distribution days.
- Food Lion in Banner Elk donated 3,000+ pounds of food monthly, including fresh meats, as well as deli and bakery items. Volunteers picked up at the store location 5 days a week.
- The customers of Lowes Food in Banner Elk donated food items at the check-out through the “Friends Feeding Friends” program. FAF received about 7,000 pounds of food each month – including 10,000 cans of soup in October.
- Churches, businesses, civic groups, colleges and many others held community food drives for FAF.
- Through AmazonSmile donations, they have received $1,000 to date. When an Amazon shopper designates Feeding Avery Families as the recipient, Amazon donates a percentage of each purchase. Go to AmazonSmile to select FAF as your recipient at no cost to you.
- As needs and programs expanded this year, Jo-Ann McMurray was promoted as co-director to share leadership with Dick Larson.
- Due to FAF’s ability to secure top quality food at very low costs and using hundreds of volunteers to keep administrative costs minimal, their total cost per meal was just 30 cents. Donate now!
Looking ahead in 2021, the biggest challenge for Feeding Avery Families will be finding a larger location to accommodate their expanding programs in response to growing needs in Avery County.
For more info: Read more about us or call 828-783-8506.