by Braedyn Mallard, Program Manager for Donation Stations and Food Ambassadors
Here at Farmer Foodshare, I consistently find myself sitting in rooms surrounded by the most inspiring and dedicated human beings.
This year’s Closing the Hunger Gap Conference was no different. I was part of a breakout session at the conference that featured some of the innovative ways that community organizations and NC Cooperative Extension are partnering to address food security. Our Donation Station in Wilmington, NC, and the Borrowing Kitchen at the Christians United Outreach Center (CUOC) in Lee County, NC, were the two programs highlighted.
Over the past couple of years Farmer Foodshare has worked with Cooperative Extension in New Hanover County to connect Extension Master Food Volunteers (EMFV) with our Donation Station program. You’ve probably heard of the Master Gardener program (or seen Master Gardeners at your local farmers market.) The EMFV program is similar, but whereas Master Gardeners promote gardening, the EMFV program is designed to engage residents in food and nutrition programming in their community. They also train volunteers to further expand the reach of NC Cooperative Extension.
Since April 2019, the Master Food Volunteers have served at the Donation Station at the Wilmington Farmers Market. In that time, they have collected and spent just over $775 with local farmers and collected/donated around 225 pounds of produce to Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard. Impressive!
I was really intrigued to learn about the Borrowing Kitchen in Lee County, NC — the second partnership highlighted on the panel. The Borrowing Kitchen loans kitchen equipment, free of charge, to food pantry clients at the CUOC in conjunction with Extension nutrition education classes.
I am so inspired by the work of Teresa Kelly (CUOC) and Alyssa Anderson (Family and Consumer Sciences Agent for Lee County) and Annie Hardison-Moody (Extension Specialist) at the Borrowing Kitchen. The idea for the program was sparked by low income mothers in rural NC. In interviews with Hardison-Moody, many of the women shared that they wanted to eat and prepare fresh food, but they didn’t have the cooking equipment they needed. So Hardison-Moody, Anderson, and Kelly worked together to build and pilot the Borrowing Kitchen in Lee County.
This breakout session illustrated how Cooperative Extension is uniquely positioned to help organizations like ours build capacity across the state. I know I’m grateful for all our dedicated extension agents across the state of NC!