This fall, two pillars of the Watauga community are joining forces. First Baptist Church of Boone and Hunger and Health Coalition are partnering to expand the food assistance services available at the First Baptist Church on King Street, strengthening the local safety net and making food security more accessible for all residents. After meeting and planning throughout the summer, the two organizations are excited to announce the start of this new partnership in September 2021. This partnership will mark the unveiling of the “Hunger and Health Coalition at First Baptist Church” (HHC at FBC) hub of services located on the ground floor of the First Baptist Church, adjacent to ASU’s campus.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hunger and Health Coalition has seen an increased number of individuals unable to leave their homes. Fear of the virus, quarantining, and increased childcare duties have made it difficult for many clients to receive the food assistance they need. These factors add to the transportation barriers low-income people in Watauga face: 30% of individuals who qualify for food service do not have transportation to access the services they need (Watauga County Community Health Report, 2017). To respond, the organization created a new Mobile Food Assistance program, allowing any resident of Watauga County to request food box delivery directly to their door. Since last September, the Hunger and Health Coalition’s team of staff and volunteers have completed over 1,000 deliveries to nearly 70 households.
Now, at the Hunger and Health Coalition’s main site, space is the limiting factor. Partnership with First Baptist Church will give the Mobile Food Assistance program room to continue growing, ensuring that all Watauga County residents with low-income are able to receive food box deliveries as they need it.
This partnership will also mark the reopening of First Baptist Church’s Monday food pantry, resuming the weekly pre-pandemic service schedule. This pantry opens 3pm-6pm each week, allowing individuals who work during the daytime access to food assistance on their way home. During the remainder of the week, the space will be used to coordinate the Mobile Food Assistance program, housing the Hunger and Health’s growing Nutrition Education Hub, and eventually even more programs to unite our community around food and health.
“Partnering in this way is a literal dream come true for our team,” says Hunger and Health Coalition Executive Director Elizabeth Young. “First Baptist Church is one of the area’s most prominent examples of a faith organization actively contributing to the Watauga County’s social safety net. We are honored to work together in developing this partnership as a new source of support for our community.”
First Baptist Church approached Hunger and Health Coalition with the idea, extending the church’s long mission of providing needed food to the community. First Baptist Church Pastor Roy Dobyns says, “The desire and calling of the First Baptist Church of Boone to share God’s love on this corner made right now the perfect time to form a partnership with the Hunger and Health Coalition. I am very excited to see the ground floor of our facility used to facilitate food security for our neighbors in ways beyond the Monday afternoon food distribution. I want to thank the many past and present volunteers and leadership from the COC including May Bouboulis, Larry Woodrow, Kristel Rider, and Darrell Garner, for their tireless efforts to care for the hungry. I am honored to work with Elizabeth Young and the Hunger and Health Coalition.”
For anyone interested in joining the volunteer team to fuel this new expansion, the Hunger and Health Coalition would love to hear from you. Email [email protected], visit hungerandhealthcoalition.com, or call at 828-262-1628 to get started, and become part of the solution to food insecurity in our community.