WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Feast Down East has always worked to take care of vulnerable populations, but that task has been even bigger lately.
With kids out of school and a record number of the population facing unemployment, more people need a helping hand than ever before.
Cara Stretch with Feast Down East says the group has seen more people facing food insecurity and they’ve also instituted more programs in the last few weeks to keep people stocked up on healthy, local food in addition to their mission of supporting the area’s farmers.
In just the past few weeks, they’ve handed out hundreds of free food bags to under-served communities, seniors and migrant workers and started a thriving CSA box program. In a CSA program, community members order a box and pick up a prepackaged combination of local farm fresh products each week.
“We sell out every week. Its really exciting. We’ve seen a huge shift in the community supporting locally grown food,” said Stretch. “To see a community support a CSA program this way, its really touching. The entire experience has moved a lot of us to realize the local food movement is something people are paying attention to now.”
Most recently, a program was launched to provide unemployed restaurant workers with free boxes of farm fresh goods. Thanks to donors, they’re able to provide more than 100 free food boxes a week to cooks and servers.
The restaurant program is special for them because they’ve worked with many of these businesses for years, trying to help farmers get their products in the hands of hungry restaurant patrons. But now the tables have turned; The group used to work closely to get fresh produce to local restaurants but they now find themselves feeding the staff of those restaurants as they go another week without work.
“They have been hugely supportive of Feast Down East and our farmers and so it feels really good to be able to help them now. They’re out of work, its really hard to access unemployment and its hard to access any support right now, so we’re excited to at least get them some yummy, nutritious, locally grown food,” said Stretch.
Though its undoubtedly a trying and uncertain time, Stretch says a lot of good has sprouted from COVID-19, too.
“We have seen so many people-- people who are suffering right now --who are still giving us money to help other people get food and its really incredible. Some of the messages we see and the dollar amounts we have been given are ... there are tears sometimes when I see. I know people are struggling and these are people who work in restaurants or industries that have been significantly impacted by COVID closures.”