Food and COVID-19
Facing high demand and food shortages, The Lords Food Pantry in Shallotte is still serving hungry people, thanks to Coordinator Mary Pritchard and a team of volunteers.
Mary Pritchard, coordinator of The Lords Food Pantry, includes a bar of soap and roll of toilet paper in every bag given to families each Saturday at Camp United Methodist Church in Shallotte. She doesn’t stop there. “A human need includes masks,” she says, so a mask is attached to a sheet of paper with information about COVID-19 precautions and how to receive the vaccine.
Pritchard, who has coordinated The Lords Food Pantry and other pantries of the South Brunswick InterChurch Council since 2004, says with COVID-19 sidelining jobs and with schools not in session, the need for food has carved a wide swath of demand.
As a result, requests during the summer of 2020 shot up 58 percent over the summer of 2019.
To complicate matters, Pritchard couldn’t get as much food as she needed. Before the virus hit, she purchased 450 cases of food every month from Feeding America. Since March of 2020, “I’m allotted 36 cases a month,” she says.
Bob Herdic of Carolina Shores drives to Wilmington to pick up that allotment, plus the seasonal produce the government provides and the 100 to 200 loaves of bread Pritchard has arranged to buy. She also has an agreement with local grocery stores to get meat and dairy products and to buy cases of food the pantry needs. Herdic picks up the items from the stores and then stacks everything in either storage, freezer or refrigerated units. Herdic has also donated paper products to the pantry from his own business, Chemical Systems Innovations.
“If you are up at Camp United on a Saturday, it opens your eyes,” Herdic says. “The need is tremendous.”
With nonprofits unable to hold fundraisers, Pritchard continues to write grants, which in 2020 reaped around $35,000. Private donations brought in a similar amount. About 10 percent of the donations come in tangible items, but she adds that up to 15 percent have to be discarded because of expiration dates. Donations, though, weren’t enough, so this resourceful former retail marketing manager developed a system of her own to stock the shelves.
“I went to all the dollar stores from North Myrtle Beach to Supply and bought food,” she says. The procedure she used was to speak with each store manager and ask if she could buy their entire stock of a specific item such as chicken noodle soup or pork and beans. The managers were accommodating.
“That’s what I’ve done since March 2020,” she says. “That’s how I’ve kept The Lords Food Pantry going.”
About 20 volunteers, all wearing masks, ignored the frigid temperature one recent Saturday morning to bring the bagged food to those waiting in their cars.
“We are meeting the need,” says Dave Green of Ocean Isle Beach, who helps organize the weekly distribution at Camp United.
“It’s giving back to the community,” says Tamara Budros of Carolina Shores.
Pritchard is concerned about nutrition, so the contents of a bag is based on 2,000 calories a day per person. Another step she’s taken is to add recipes she gets from either the North Carolina Cooperative Extension office in Bolivia, Feeding America or online. She includes them so people don’t get bored with the same recipes, she says.
“I’m impressed with the work that goes into keeping the food bank and the need for it,” says Victor Guarino of Ocean Isle Beach, treasurer of South Brunswick InterChurch Council. “I’m impressed with the number of people involved and the work they do.” His wife Susan, a former home-healthcare nurse, helped Pritchard compile and distribute the flyer on COVID-19.
“This helps people who can’t afford food,” says Jack Bendy of Carolina Shores. “No one wants to be hungry.”
“I like helping others, and there’s a big need,” adds South Brunswick InterChurch Council board president Mike Claxton of Calabash.
“We are providing for those who don’t have food,” says his wife, Deb Claxton. “They are so grateful that we do this.”
Pritchard, who dedicates from 60 to 70 hours a week to this volunteer service, emphasizes that none of the volunteers receive compensation. “You get paid in satisfaction helping somebody else,” she says.
In 2010 Pritchard received the Governor’s Medallion Award for outstanding volunteer service.
“We’re still open,” she adds. “I’m determined. I won’t give up.”
Can you help?
To volunteer or donate to The Lords Food Pantry, contact:
Pantry coordinator, Mary Pritchard, firstname.lastname@example.org
South Brunswick InterChurch Council, Mike Claxton, email@example.com
For more information, visit thelordsfoodpantry.org.
Do you need help?
The Lords Food Pantry is open every Saturday from 10 am until noon in the Fellowship Hall of Camp United Methodist Church, 4807 Main Street in Shallotte.