Photo: Facebook/Chet Mann

By Charles Petty

Gathered in the parking lot of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Carolina on Wednesday morning, local officials, volunteers, and business leaders gathered to launch a food drive initiative known as the “Alliance to Defeat Hunger”

The partnership between Feed the Children, Tyson Foods and Americold was created to help fight hunger across the country. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, these companies felt compelled to create a way for food to be accessed by those most in need.

Teaming up with local organizers, the campaign made its way to Sanford on Wednesday as part of a 10 city tour of the nation. The tour is focused on rural communities in America, where those in need have less access to nutritious food and limited support for feeding programs to help kids and families. The companies also want to ensure that children have access to food and essentials during the summer months when school is not in session. The tour began last month and will continue over the summer.

The companies also partnered with schools in each community to set up pantries where children and families can access food, school supplies and personal hygiene products during or after school hours. In Lee County, the partnership is with the Christians United Outreach Center.

As part of the event in Sanford, families received a 25-pound box of non-perishable food, a 15-pound box of essentials such as shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and personal-care items, and Tyson products and additional items to help with their everyday needs. Over 1,600 people have been so far helped by this initiative.

“We are really thankful for Americold and Tyson for stepping up and helping to work with the Boys and Girls Club to help feed children and families in need,” said Brooke Flemming, the senior constituent advocate for U.S. Senator Thom Tillis. “It is so important that this food drive is happening to help North Carolina families.”

Also speaking were Sanford Mayor Chet Mann, who issued a proclamation thanking the task force in helping to battle childhood and family hunger in Lee County, state Senator Jim Burgin, Lee County Board of Education Chair Sandra Bowen, Lee County Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Andy Bryan, Boys and Girls Clubs’ Resource Development Director Elizabeth Colebrook, Chet Jones, the director of corporate donor relations for Feed the Children, Sanford Americold General Manager Chris Lough, and Andy Pfeifer, plant manager for Tyson Foods in Sanford.

Around 30 people were in attendance on Wednesday, many of them volunteers who were onsite to help distribute care packages to those waiting at the parking lot to collect essential items.