Feeding from the Porch

Mar. 02, 2013 @ 10:21 AM

The audacity of hunger should move us all to want to help.

In Hillsborough and Northern Orange County, a grass-roots organization is rallying neighborhoods and communities, in an effort to contribute to the call for food, literally from the front porches of your neighbors and neighbors you might not yet know.

Two longtime friends, Nancy Grebenkemper and Claire Miller, are tirelessly working to fertilize PORCH specifically for the Hillsborough and Northern Orange County communities and neighborhoods. Their effort is a derivative of the PORCH (People Offering Relieve for Chapel Hill Carrboro Homes) organization that formed in Southern Orange County.

Having met at Carolina Friends School where they had mutual interests, Grebenkemper and Miller  hope to grow the concept of providing food to Orange Congregation In Missions, by way of neighborhoods and communities giving from their porches.

“The idea is very simple,” says Grebenkemper. “A neighborhood or community leader organizes their neighbors to place a single bag of groceries on the front porch, for collection by a PORCH representative, and that food is taken to OCIM.”

Having worked in the communities they serve, with careers on psychology and social work, these two friends of 30 years have seen the effects of hunger and the effect contributing to OCIM has on staving off the pains of needing to eat.

According to Miller and Grebenkemper, one in five Orange County residents is below the poverty level.

“We are growing slowly,” says Miller, who has been a Peace Corp volunteer. The Hillsborough group began two years ago and has grown to include 13 neighborhoods, positively impacting their contributions to the mission of the OCIM food pantry.

“It is astonishing to see the shelves when they are empty as you know that somewhere, somebody is hungry and not getting a needed meal,” says Grebenkemper.

As devoted organizers, Grebenkemper and Miller travel in and around Hillsborough, explaining the mission of PORCH and encouraging others to get involved. “All that we require is that once a month, that identified neighborhood or community participants agree to place a single bag of groceries on the front porch for us to pick up. There are no donations, no fundraisers, and all of the food collected is given to OCIM, which in turn benefits neighbors of our community as a whole,” says Grebenkemper.

According to Miller, the contribution of groceries makes a “huge difference at OCIM.” When the Hillsborough group began collecting groceries in February 2011, the initial delivery to OCIM was 279-pounds. By the end of the first year, the group had given 4,000 pounds of food worth an estimated $7,000.

Last year, almost 7,800 pounds of food was contributed, worth an estimated $13,000. More than 150 residents contribute to the effort.

“It is really fantastic to see people get food that we have organized to be collected,” says Grebenkemper. “Indeed, it is very rewarding to see the happiness and hope in those that come to OCIM for food,” Miller says.

They want to grow the idea deeper into Hillsborough and to expand the concept to the rural communities of northern Orange County. “We see this effort as one that takes so little effort in that a family or individual places the food on the porch and we come to collect it and take it to OCIM,” says Grebenkemper.

Contributing to this cause is something any neighborhood, community or family can do.

“It is amazing how much minimal effort this group requires to have an impact on the greater good for ceasing hunger,” says Miller.

To volunteer or assist, please email PORCH.HillsboroughNC@gmail.com

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