By Michelle Cassell
CARRBORO – TABLE, a Carrboro-based nonprofit, has reached its $3.25M fundraising goal, culminating a four-year capital campaign. TABLE delivers healthy food to children who live in Orange County. The campaign raised funds from 435 donors, including gifts from individuals, businesses, and foundations.
The accomplishment of this goal enables TABLE to provide a permanent debt-free space and allows them to focus all their efforts on feeding more local kids. “We cannot wait for the day when we can open up the doors of our new home to our staff, volunteers, donors, community partners and most of all to those who need our services,” Ashton Tippins, Executive Director TABLE, said.
Suzanne Tormollen, Director of Marketing TABLE, said, “We can now complete the purchase of an 8,000 square-foot space at 311 East Main Street in Carrboro, which will become our permanent home.”
TABLE had operated without a permanent space and with under 2,000 square feet, according to Tormollen. Since it began in 2008, they have evolved from feeding 12 children at one elementary school to 850 children throughout Orange County. Since their space was limited, they now have a waiting list of more than 175 kids.
The new site will be able to offer many new features to expand food access to more local kids and offer nutrition education programs. The building will include:
● Larger warehouse space – increased storage for dry food and grocery products
● Walk-in refrigeration – to store more fresh food for delivery
● Loading dock – to increase efficiency in loading the delivery cars
● Meeting space – for staff, partners and families to meet
● Commercial grade kitchen – to conduct nutrition education classes
● Increased volunteer capacity – to host more volunteers on a single shift
Feeding children through TABLE begins with volunteers filling bags of food every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Then they load the bags
into delivery drivers’ cars and the drivers transport the food directly to the homes of the children they serve. Currently, they rely on 45 drivers every week.
“The bags we prepare weekly contain 50% healthy non-perishables and 50% fresh food, equivalent to about ten meals,” Tormollen explained.
Children obtain services by being identified through social workers, referrals from friends, and hunger relief organizations such as PORCH and the Inter-Faith Council (IFC). “Parents can reach out to our website where there is an application they can fill out,” Tormollen said. “Now they can only get on a waiting list because we have reached capacity.”
Benefits to families who were receiving special COVID allotments were discontinued in March. “That was when we saw a rise in the need for the services we provide,” Tormollen explained that was the main reason for the waiting list TABLE now has.
Critics of the National School Lunch Program say that the government program often does not reach all of the children who need help or may need to provide more assistance to cover all meals.
Nonprofits like TABLE fill the gaps by offering free or low-cost meals and work to address barriers to access, such as transportation and the availability of meals during non-school hours or weekends.
TABLE has started several pilot programs, including Chefs@Home. That program will begin in October and each TABLE family will receive a Chefs@Home box monthly. “Each box will contain ingredients and a recipe for a meal,” said Tormollen. The first one is going to be pumpkin pancakes. She says it is a great way to unite families in the kitchen.
TABLE is actively seeking volunteers to drive meals to the children’s homes. If you are interested, please visit their website.
Michelle Cassell is a seasoned reporter who has covered everything from crime to hurricanes and local politics to human interest over the course of 35 years. As managing editor, she hopes to encourage writers of a wide range of backgrounds and interests in TLR’s coverage of Southern Orange County news.