Partners in Produce

Dozens of seniors in Pittsboro and Siler City come to the Chatham County Council on Aging each day for lunch and fellowship. It’s an opportunity for them to share a meal and connect with others. Twice a month this past fall and winter, these seniors took home a little something extra – a bag of fresh, North Carolina-grown produce.

Senior Reactions   “I really enjoy the foods I have gotten. I usually don’t buy many vegetables, and I really appreciate the variety.”  “I don’t drive – so it’s good to get fresh fruit and vegetables.”  “I look forward to receiving the food. It is a big asset to me and my family. Please continue to do so. I thank you so much!”

Senior Reactions

“I really enjoy the foods I have gotten. I usually don’t buy many vegetables, and I really appreciate the variety.”

“I don’t drive – so it’s good to get fresh fruit and vegetables.”

“I look forward to receiving the food. It is a big asset to me and my family. Please continue to do so. I thank you so much!”

How did it happen? Community collaboration.

It started when Farmer Foodshare reached out to CORA Food Pantry and the Council on Aging. Funding from Carolina Meadows’ Community Grants Program would cover the cost of purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables from North Carolina farmers through Farmer Foodshare’s Wholesale Market. But we needed a way to reach the seniors.

The Council on Aging offers a daily lunch program that gathers roughly 70 seniors, many of whom depend on such services for proper nutrition and would be thrilled to have a regular source of fresh produce to take home.

CORA provides emergency food support to families in Chatham County. They have expertise in ordering the right quantities of food and a huge cadre of dedicated volunteers prepared to sort, package and deliver individual bags of produce to the Council on Aging’s locations in Siler City and Pittsboro.

The pieces were coming together. Soon, Farmer Foodshare began sourcing a mix of seasonal fruits and vegetables – and the CORA volunteers were ready.

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“I really enjoy putting the food bags together,” said Laurie, a regular CORA volunteer. “I know we are sending something home that would not normally be available. The apples are gorgeous, the lettuce is so fresh, and the butternut squash are unbelievable.”

Splitting up the work in this way allowed each agency to focus on the areas where they could add the most value.

Natalie Stewart, CORA’s Director of Operations, believes this is what they’re meant to do. “We’re grateful to this community who feeds families' hearts, minds, and bodies with nutritious food, helpful information and a connection to critical services to make a significant, positive difference in the lives of so many,” she said.

“We couldn’t believe how generous CORA was to arrange the food ordering and sorting,” said Alan Russo, Eastern Chatham Nutrition Site Manager at the Council on Aging.

“It really took a lot of the pressure off us,” agreed Liz Lahti, Eastern Chatham Senior Center Manager at the Council on Aging. “There wasn’t a focus on ‘our agency’ - it really was about all of us working together to serve our community.”