June 15, 2010

Hatteras Island Food Pantry has first summer shortage


The Hatteras Island Food Pantry, a non-profit, completely volunteer-staffed organization that serves numerous Islanders and their families, is having its first annual summer food drive.
The food pantry, which was started when the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge was knocked out in 1990, is very active in the winter, when many local businesses are closed and many residents are out of work.  But in the summer, it’s normally a different story. It’s the height of the tourist season, when businesses are staffed to the hilt and nearly everyone has at least one job.

This summer, however, the food pantry, which is located at the Buxton United Methodist Church, is experiencing an unprecedented demand for food—a demand with which the donations have scarcely been able to keep pace.

Full-time volunteers Ray and Claire Schaaft explained that, while things have slowed down a little after an extremely busy fall and winter—when they received at least one phone call a day—the food pantry is busier than it’s ever been in the summer.

“We’ve had people in here that we’ve never seen before,” Claire said of the increase in traffic.

Though the Schaafts said they didn’t know why it’s happening—whether it is increased demand, fewer donations, or both—the food pantry shelves were all but empty last week.

“These shelves used to be full of food,” Claire explained as she pointed to a nearly empty storage closet that used to be stuffed with boxes of food items.

Even the shelves in the main part of the food pantry are not fully stocked, and according to the Schaafts, nearly all of what’s there came from Dare Days—a festival held on Roanoke Island each summer for which entry is free with a donation to the county’s food pantries—and a big purchase that the pantry recently made from Conner’s Supermarket in Buxton.

Food pantry director Walton Fulcher said that while traffic has increased, last month’s numbers aren’t that much higher than they were last year at this time. Fulcher says he believes part of the problem is that donations dropped off after the holiday season and haven’t picked back up yet.

The importance of those donations cannot be overstated.  During the month of May, 99 island families relied on the food pantry, which served a total of 278 islanders.
And what’s in the pantry now certainly won’t last all summer.

In fact, according to Claire, “If it lasts three weeks, it will be a miracle.”

Of course, this is Hatteras Island, which means that the community is always there to help.

As soon as she heard about the urgent need for food items, Frisco resident Linda Browning immediately began organizing the island’s first annual summer food drive.

“A couple days ago I got a call from Walton Fulcher saying that the food pantry was out of almost everything and asking if I could do something.  I was shocked because the food pantry has never needed a food drive this time of year,” Browning said in an e-mail.

Within days of Fulcher’s call, Browning had spread the word via Facebook and e-mail of the pantry’s urgent need for food and monetary donations and had worked to secure several drop-off locations up and down the Island where donors could take their goods.

The items most in demand are cooking oil, peanut butter, jelly, spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, grated cheese, pancake mix, pancake syrup, cereal, non-fat dry milk, sugar, flour, biscuit mix, shortening, salt and pepper, and canned meats, but any and all donations are much needed and greatly appreciated.

“Right now, we can use anything!” Claire said.

Donations are tax-deductible, and 100 percent of all food and monetary items donated will go toward helping islanders, whether through stocking the shelves or shoring up the relief fund.

Checks made payable to United Methodist Men can be mailed to Hatteras Island Food Pantry, PO Box 1591, Buxton, NC 27920.  Non-perishable foods, personal care items, and cleaning supplies can be taken to the locations listed below.

•    Hatteras Realty - Hatteras, Avon, Waves (Mon.- Sat., 8:30-6; Sun., 10-5)
•    Our Lady of the Seas Parish Hall - Buxton (24-hr. drop-off box on porch)
•    Frisco Rod & Gun - Frisco (daily 6-9)
•    Surf-or-Sound Realty - Avon, Salvo (daily 8:30-5:30)
•    Dancing Turtle Coffee Shop - Hatteras (daily 7-6)
•    Hatteras Island Family Medicine - Frisco (Mon.-Thurs., 8-12 noon and 1-4:30)
•    Kinnakeet Civic Association Fish Fry (Every Saturday, May 29-Sept 4 , 5-7pm at the Avon Fire Station)

For more information contact food drive organizer Linda Browning at 995-3662 or Walton Fulcher at 995-5772.

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