Commentary: Food brings us together

Commentary: Food brings us together
December 02
12:22 2021

By Eric Aft

Food brings us together, especially at this time of year. Favorite family recipes prepared and shared with those we love. 

Unfortunately, for many of our neighbors the holidays bring added stress, especially for parents struggling to afford groceries and keep the house warm. Under the pressures of rising prices, lost or low wages, and other challenges, plans around special meals and gifts take a back seat. 

For almost two years now, we have all felt uncertainty, and for many of our neighbors that uncertainty has been heightened by a lack of resources to reliably afford the food they need for themselves and their families. 

When the pandemic first struck and shutdowns ensued, nearly half the people coming to our Food Bank network for help had never sought food assistance before. Since that time, the need among families has ebbed around government assistance; however, food insecurity remains higher than pre-COVID levels. 

We met Sarah at one of our on-going food distributions, introduced when images of lines of cars of people in need dominated the daily news. Those lines remain a reality in our town and across our nation. Afterall, food insecurity was a significant challenge before COVID-19 ever came into our lives. The pandemic has only worsened these challenges. 

Sarah and her husband Dan have been taking turns coming to Second Harvest Food Bank food distributions. Self-described “proud momma of Riley, age 5 and Sissy, age 7,” Sarah is proud of Dan, too. He’s been in construction since before he graduated high school, but Sarah says it’s not as stable as some may think. She described her own work as a CNA as “incredibly demanding, fulfilling work, at not great pay.”

For families like Sarah and Dan’s, the fresh produce, canned goods, and other provisions our Food Bank provides often serve as a bridge until the next paycheck comes – a way to balance tenuous household budgets.

The last time I saw her, Sarah made sure to share her appreciation. She said she’s grateful, and so am I, for so many things. Chief among these are my incredibly supportive wife and family; the team at Second Harvest, who continues to step up in ways that inspire me each day; the engaged board members serving Second Harvest; our deeply dedicated on-the-ground network of partner agencies; and this incredible community. 

Your collective, generous gifts to our mission will continue to be essential to sustain Second Harvest Food Bank’s ability to reach people where they are, with urgency, and to accelerate and expand our ability to respond into the future.

Your support has allowed Second Harvest to be relentless in responding to sustained heightened need in our communities. Pre-pandemic, our Food Bank was investing $400,000 annually in food purchases to ensure a strong mix of healthy provisions to supplement donations. Last year, we spent $4 million. This year we are on track to spend another $4 million. 

We are building a new, larger facility because our current home is holding us back from doing all that we can to serve the growing needs of our communities. From our new home in Whitaker Park, opening in the fall of 2022, we will be positioned to distribute more food, specifically more fresh produce. We will expand our Providence Culinary Training Program and leverage our expertise in logistics to create new job training opportunities. We will expand and deepen our partnerships working at the intersections of hunger and health and overlapping disparities around access to food and healthcare. We will continue to fulfill our mission in transformational ways, supported by continued generous donations from people like you and investments from our partners across the public, private, healthcare, and other sectors. 

We know that food is foundational to being able to live our best life and recognize its power to bring us together, as families and as a community. Kitchen tables have long been gathering places where we share the joys and challenges of our lives and the foods that bring comfort and nourishment to our days. This holiday season may your heart be glad and your table full. 

And remember, you are always welcome at our table and home. I hope you’ll take an opportunity to explore the many ways you can continue or begin supporting our mission and work at

Eric A. Aft was appointed Chief Executive Officer for Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC in July 2018, after joining the organization as Chief Operating Officer in September 2017. To his role at the helm of the region’s lead agency and advocate addressing food insecurity, Aft brings with him more than 30 years in nonprofit management and a proven track record of strategic, results-oriented leadership and success in building collaborative approaches to addressing pressing community issues.

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