40 Years of Feeding the Community

396 Apples. 1900 Florida Oranges. 760 pounds of bananas. 26 pounds of Georgia/South Carolina peaches. What was then the Urban Ministry Center was able to distribute fresh fruits to families in 1988, thanks to The Friendship Class of First Baptist Church on Salisbury Street. This is just one example of what is now the Urban Ministries of Wake County Hunger and Nutrition Program’s humble beginnings.

Forty years ago, the center’s pantry served less than 3,500. This year, the program provided a week’s worth of meals to 42,219 individuals.

In addition to the pantry, five volunteer gardeners harvest more than 16 varieties of vegetables within 900 square feet of garden space outside of UMWC’s main building. The gardeners produce more than 7,000 pounds of produce that is distributed through the food pantry.

During the current pandemic, the pantry added four additional refrigerators, allowing UMWC to maintain its goal of distributing at least 50 percent more meats and produce than boxed/processed foods, particularly with the addition of milk and eggs to the inventory.

Speaking of the pandemic, the program was able to really to display its ability to adapt to change. Before COVID-19, UMWC had the largest client-choice food pantry, meaning clients were able to go inside and shop for their own items. To ensure safety, the program reverted to its original curbside model it used prior to 2016. This change allowed for the creation of a system that helped the pantry serve even more people each day as the demand for food increased.

To make the 40th year even sweeter, UMWC named its new Director of Hunger and Nutrition, Nick Robertson. Nick had previously served UMWC for several years as the pantry manager and was hailed a “Hunger Hero.”

“I feel truly blessed to be able to be a positive force for our community. It really feels good to be a part of something so powerful and authentic,” Nick said. “I would like to change the narrative and certain perceptions about food insecurity and the people we serve. I want to end hunger in Wake County and put myself out of business.”

Nick said that there are too many resources for anybody to go hungry in 2021 and beyond. “I just want to say that I absolutely love what we do and while I get a lot of praise, I fully understand that I’m just a driver of a vehicle.”