Hunger Relief Efforts

by | Mar 13, 2024 | Around Town, Nonprofit, Online Exclusives

PORCH Communities expands in Onslow County.

PORCH Communities, a grass-roots hunger relief organization formed in Chapel Hill in 2010, has expanded in Onslow County with a new coordinator organizing the group’s collection efforts in Sneads Ferry and Holly Ridge.

Samantha Christmas says her inspiration for leading the local efforts came about when she was “helping a little boy in my daughter’s school last year.” The boy’s family was having a hard time with food, and Christmas was looking for resources. It was then that she found the PORCH Communities organization and decided to get involved.

Christmas started the new PORCH chapter in September 2023 and now partners with the CHEW program, which sends backpacks home with children who may not otherwise have enough food to sustain them over the weekend. CHEW, Children Healthy Eating on Weekends, is a United Way of Onslow County program.

PORCH Onslow and CHEW focus on area schools, with the distribution hub located at Dixon High School. They send bags home every weekend during the school year and on breaks and maintain a food pantry available for students in need. The food collected is distributed to several local schools, including all the Dixon schools, Coastal Elementary and Surf City schools.

PORCH Volunteer Food Delivery

Christmas says she “saw that the schools needed a lot of help.” She is now working with the Dixon High School social worker to help them fill their shelves. Noting that “their pantry was pretty empty before,” Christmas is encouraged that now “more kids can get the bags to get through the weekend and on school breaks.”

The PORCH model is relatively simple. Neighborhoods are encouraged to put bags of nonperishable food out on their porches for coordinators to collect on a regular monthly schedule. Last month, PORCH Onslow collected 104 pounds of food. As more neighborhoods get involved and more coordinators sign up to help with the collections, Christmas anticipates increasing that amount substantially.

PORCH Onslow has just signed its fourth neighborhood coordinator and is always looking for more volunteers. Each coordinator oversees the collection for their assigned neighborhood.

“Residents have been very willing to help. People go to the store to purchase items as well as donate from their own pantry,” Christmas says. She adds that “they love the mission and the purpose, especially that it helps kids in our own area.” She says that, in addition, “some people donate that don’t live in a neighborhood.”

Aimee Stone Munsell, board member and volunteer marketing leader with the PORCH Communities headquarters team, notes that the PORCH program has expanded to 10 states so far. She says that it has “grown organically” as the volunteer leaders are getting more people to donate food. Munsell is also “helping build partnerships with the programs that food will be donated to,” noting that “this year we are targeting specific areas of need.”

PORCH Food Delivery

Munsell moved to North Carolina three years ago and immediately started looking for ways to get involved in the community. The first organization she found was PORCH Communities, which has been operating in Pender County and in Jacksonville as well as many other areas of the state. Munsell started volunteering with the PORCH organization and connected with Christine Cotton, the organization’s founder.

“North Carolina is our biggest, strongest state so far,” Munsell says. She adds that “Eastern North Carolina is a big focus for us this year. There are big areas of need.” In particular, the organization is targeting areas such as Onslow County, where the food insecurity rate is 15%.

Munsell and Christmas agree that the program needs more volunteers and can always use more food donations. Christmas notes that they need nonperishable foods such as tuna and canned meats as well as other canned goods and boxed goods. They especially need “things that children can use and that they like,” such as noodles, oatmeal and fruit cups.

There is no age limit to participate in the collection of food from neighborhood porches and volunteers can start with a few hours a month.

“We try to meet people where they are,” Munsell says. “We welcome anyone interested in starting a PORCH in their area.”

Want more information?
Check out PORCH Onslow and sign up as a volunteer:
https://porchcommunities.org/onslow

About the author

Pat Fontana

Pat Fontana

I am a business writer and communications workshop leader. My business, WordsWorking, and my recently published book, Talk to Me Like I’m a Human, focus on improving workplace communications, concentrating on the fundamentals of human interactions. I developed, write about and train on the concept of REAL Communications, encouraging others to communicate with Respect and Empathy, paying close Attention and Listening with intent. I can be reached at pat@words-working.net.