Amidst the coronavirus pandemic currently sweeping the globe, people everywhere are being kept out of work and school—leaving many families wondering where their next meals are coming from.

That’s no different in Orange County, where PORCH is working tirelessly to provide the food and essentials necessary for those in need.

A grassroots hunger relief organization in Chapel Hill and Carrboro run strictly by volunteers, PORCH was co-founded by Christine Cotton and Debbie Horowitz, who spoke with 97.9 The Hill’s Aaron Keck about their current efforts.

The organization currently supports 465 local families who live at or below the poverty level, supplying them typically with 10 days’ worth of fresh food and non-perishables.

Because the current situation prevents people from gathering, PORCH has shifted to giving each of its families $50 gift cards to Food Lion.

“It also accounts for the fact that we can’t know for sure that everyone will eat pasta and sauce,” Horowitz said, of the gift cards. “There are cultural considerations. There are dietary considerations. And when we assume and give a random bag of food—though it may feel helpful—we can’t know for sure that everyone’s going to eat peanut butter. This way, people can make their own choices. They can use it where needed.”

With so many people beyond just the families tied to PORCH being affected, Cotton said they have partnered with a wide variety of local organizations in order to help out.

This includes—but is not limited to–the Orange County Department of Social Services, the Rogers Road Community Center, the Jackson Center and the Interfaith Council for Social Service (IFC).

PORCH has also joined forces with the local school districts to help provide meals to kids who normally rely on free or reduced-price lunches during the day.

At six different sites, the organization has found ways to practice social distancing while distributing these meals—both breakfast and lunch–to kids in a safe manner.

Cotton said they have provided meals to up to 1,200 kids in just a single day.

“We don’t know how long we’re going to have to provide the school lunches for the kids,” Cotton said. “And the breakfast for the kids. And where the funding is going to come from. The district has dedicated, the child nutrition department has dedicated, just to feeding the children. We’re worrying about reimbursement later, and we’re only able to do that because people are being so generous.”

As time wears on during this pandemic, the need for cash donations will become more important for Cotton, Horowitz and the rest of the team at PORCH.

They admit that the gift card program may need to undergo modifications over time, and having cash on hand will help them be ready if it does.

With the coronavirus situation changing at a rapid rate, continued support is the number one thing PORCH is asking for from the community.

“What PORCH is good at is really using our expertise in logistics, in recruiting volunteers, in communicating with our partners—our non-profit partners—right here in town to really adjust organically to meet the need,” Horowitz said. “And we know that what we’re facing now is going to be a very different picture than what we face potentially even tomorrow, the way the environment is changing and the situation is changing. And we need to be prepared to respond.”

To learn more about PORCH and their efforts, visit their website.

Photo via PORCH.

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