PITTSBORO — Food insecurity is growing issue in Chatham County, with 9,100 residents not knowing where their next meal might come from. But local restaurants and organizations are working to fight hunger in Chatham through a new fundraising campaign aiming to help the less fortunate while supporting the small town food scene.
Pittsboro Eats and Equiti Foods — better known as Good Bowls — partnered with several Pittsboro restaurants in a recent “Pay It Forward” campaign, which raised money to package and distribute bowls of fresh meals for families in need.
Organizers plan 10-day Pay It Forward campaigns every other month moving forward. Each will utilize a different local restaurant in partnership with Good Bowls to raise money from the community to make prepackaged meals, which will then be distributed to local food pantries and organizations such as CORA and Communities In Schools.
Donors can contribute as little as $10, the cost to make one prepackaged meal for a family in need, according to Good Bowls founder Dr. Alice Ammerman, a professor of nutrition at UNC-Chapel Hill.
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an unprecedented increase in food insecure families, and Ammerman said a grant Equiti Foods received from the National Institutes of Health led her to address the issue. But Good Bowls wanted to do more to support the local food industry after the pandemic dealt a massive blow to dine-in food service.
“Because of all that was going on with the restaurants and because it seemed like it could be a good partnership, we applied to work with restaurants,” Ammerman said.
Ammerman and her staff contacted Sally Bond, one of the organizers of Pittsboro Eats — a group encouraging the support of locally-owned restaurants. After the two met, a partnership was created.
“We were originally motivated and are still very motivated to preserve the restaurants that we have, especially the locally-owned restaurants we have in Pittsboro,” Bond said. “But there’s just a tremendous amount of food insecurity in Chatham County, which is really pretty horrifying, given the also the amount of wealth that there is in the county.”
Bond is in charge of reaching out to restaurants about participating in the Pay It Forward fundraising effort. So far, five have joined — Copeland Springs, Angelina’s Kitchen, The Root Cellar, the Sycamore at Chatham Mills and most recently, Postal Fish.
Greg Lewis and his wife, Maria Parker-Lewis, own The Sycamore and have participated in previous campaigns, including feeding up to 200 families a week through a catering business they also own. For them, making sure the hungry don’t go without is an important part of their mission.
“There’s so many families in need in Chatham County and all over the world, but we can only help those around us,” Lewis said. “And so we help those in Chatham County that we’re capable of helping — we’re good at providing meals for people; somebody else can provide medical assistance or legal assistance or fixing up homes or decks, whereas what comes natural to us is providing meals.”
Parker-Lewis and Lewis were approached by Bond at an Arts in the Park event in Pittsboro, where they agreed to participate in a Good Bowls campaign. The husband-wife duo were able to raise enough money to package more than 800 meals for Chathamites in need.
“Food insecurity exists — it’s there,” Parker-Lewis said. “This campaign runs every two months, so if every two months, people can just take $10 or $20 out of their pocket and donate it, we can feed a lot of families.”
Lewis was able to get Bill Hartley, the owner of Postal Fish, to participate in Good Bowls as well. Postal Fish customers donated enough money to package more than 600 bowls of food for those in need.
“We feed a lot of people through our doors, and there’s a good percentage of people that can’t come here,” Hartley said. “So our way of helping them experience Postal Fish is by doing these events.”
Through the partnership with Pittsboro Eats and Good Bowls, Postal Fish will be working to package meals and freeze them at CORA, where the meals will be given to food insecure Chatham residents.
Hartley said the Pay It Forward initiative is a great opportunity for members of the community to give back to those who are less fortunate — something he says people should be doing more.
“It’s a great way for people to give back to the community and help that food insecure demographic,” Hartley said. “We at Postal Fish are very community oriented — we give back as much as we possibly can, and this event is a good way to do that.”
Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at email@example.com.
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