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Food for Thought drums up support

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — When you’re in school, a good meal — or a lack of one — can make all the difference. That’s the heart behind Food for Thought, a local nonprofit that sends hungry students home with backpacks full of food.

Now in its eighth year, the organization held its first fundraising breakfast Thursday morning. There, officials spoke about the program’s successes and how it has impacted children in the district.

An estimated 9,000 children in Rowan County are food insecure, Carol Herndon, executive director for Food for Thought, said. A child who is food insecure does not have enough food to meet their basic needs.

“If they can’t eat, how can they learn? And if they can’t learn, how can they be with us in this world?” Erin Wood, president of the board of directors, said.

Tables at Thursday’s fundraiser were decorated with quotes and drawings by backpack-receiving children.

“When my mother’s boyfriend left, he took everything,” one read, “now at least we have food.”

“The food you give me makes me strong,” another child wrote

At the end of the 2015-16 school year, Food for Thought was working in 20 schools and providing backpacks to more than 500 children. This year, Herndon estimates that every week volunteers will prepare, pack and send off nearly 600 backpacks.

“I am very proud of that,” she said, “but our work is far from over.”

While the need is great, Herndon said she didn’t see it as Food for Thought’s mission to feed all 9,000 children — rather, she said, the organization is a part of the solution.

“We want to serve them all,” Herndon said, “but we don’t have to be the person serving. We want to meet the need.”

Food for Thought partners closely with other backpack organizations and community organizations such as Main Street Family Mission in China Grove. They all have a single, shared goal: to eradicate hunger in Rowan County.

“Each nonprofit is crucial to the success of our community,” Wood said.

But still, Herndon hopes that Food for Thought will continue to grow.

Herndon is currently Food for Thought’s single employee. The organization runs on volunteers. Food for Thought purchases all the food and hosts “packing parties” in its warehouse, located in the basement of Rowan Helping Ministries, for groups to come and parcel up cans of vegetables and boxes of non-perishable food.

The loads are picked up by volunteers, who take them to the schools and place them in the backpacks — ready to be taken home Friday afternoon. Each backpack provides enough food for one child for one weekend.

“All the work that we do happens through the hands and feet of our volunteers,” Herndon said.

The organization serves students in elementary, middle and high school — having just added Henderson Independent High School to their roster last year.

Food for Thought has come a long way from when it began eight years ago in Amy Welch’s kitchen, and organizers say that’s thanks to the incredible support they’ve received from a generous community.

“We are drowning in support in this community,” Wood said.

But they still want to take Food for Thought further, to reach as many children as possible. The organization is always looking for volunteers, and Wood said that $3.50 can feed a child for a weekend — $250 will feed them for every weekend of the year.

Herndon presented the organization’s first volunteer of the year award Thursday. Named in honor of Amy B. Welch, the award went to Butch Hudson.

For more information on Food for Thought visit http://ncfoodforthought.org. Those interested in donating or volunteering should contact Carol Herndon at director@ncfoodforthought.org .

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.

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