Families in need will soon have their choice of groceries at the food pantry run by Christians United Outreach Center of Lee County.
After years of planning, the nonprofit finally opens its revamped food pantry Monday. Shelves full of pasta, beans and fresh fruits and vegetables will be available to “shoppers” who can pick and choose what to take home.
“Some our clients, their family might not eat green beans, but they might want red beans or kidney beans,” said Executive Director Theresa Kelly. “It does cut down on the waste that we have and they get more control over, ‘OK, this is what my family will eat.’ ”
The grocery-style “store” takes the place of the nonprofit’s thrift shop, which moved last year to a storefront in Jonesboro. Moving the thrift shop created space in the Lee Avenue warehouse for the food pantry and staff and volunteer offices.
The bright, open floor is a welcoming area for clients who can also find help paying their bills and getting medical assistance.
The food pantry itself will remain open from 4-6 p.m. Mondays and noon-2 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. The amount of food people can take home depends on the size of their family, Kelly said. Volunteers will be on hand to help people pick out food and make suggestions.
One of the goals of the new pantry is to help people eat healthier, Kelly said. The shelves aren’t only lined with canned goods, but also tips for improving health through diet and recipe cards for healthy meals using pantry items.
Alyssa Anderson, of the Lee County Cooperative Extension, will also be making regular visits to the pantry for cooking demonstrations, Kelly said.
Kelly said she hopes the increased choice will help attract more people in need to the food pantry.
Renovation of the pantry was helped along by the Jonesboro and Sanford rotary clubs, which repainted the space and purchased the shelves, and the Food Bank Central & Eastern NC, which purchased two large coolers for items like eggs, butter and cheese.
Recently, Pfizer also awarded the pantry a $10,000 grant to help them purchase fresh food and produce from local farmers, Kelly said.
“It has just all kind of come together,” Kelly said. “It has been years coming.”
People who have limited mobility will still be able to pick up boxes of food at the nonprofit’s drive-thru, according to Kelly. Volunteers can also bring out boxes of food to people who are not yet comfortable entering the building because of COVID-19.