The executive director of the Second Harvest Food Bank in Winston-Salem, which will now receive all the federal surplus food assistance for Surry County, said concerns that the county will not receive all its allocation are unfounded.
Clyde Fitzgerald said Friday morning he has been in contact with both county and Department of Social Services officials and everyone involved is comfortable with the new arrangement.
“I just want to reassure all of the people of Surry County that the county will not miss out on anything,” he said. “We’re privileged to be able to take over the county’s emergency food assistance program.
In the face of heavy funding cuts on both the state and federal level, the county’s board of commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to end its quarterly distribution of commodities under the U.S.D.A.-administered program, leaving some advocates concerned that the county might not receive its full share.
It is a concern that Fitzgerald said is much ado about nothing.
“The county came to us and asked us to do it,” he said. “But 100 percent of the allocation for Surry County will reach (food pantries) in Surry County.”
And those who need the assistance will have an easier time receiving it under the new model. Instead of just getting food once every three months, Second Harvest will distribute it monthly.
“We hope the clients will find that this is much more comfortable, accessible and easy-to-accommodate system,” Fitzgerald said. “I think this is a more humane distribution system than having people line up one day a quarter and hope they get food.”
And after serving Surry County for three decades, Fitzgerald says his organization is a known entity, and can deliver on its promise.
“I want to assure you that 100 percent of it will reach Surry County, and it’ll happen every month,” he said. “We want to let people know that they’ll get all the food that the government allocates to Surry County. While we don’t exactly celebrate having to provide food assistance for that long, we have been doing this for 30 years.”
Pick-Up Or Delivery?
Concerns about local pantries having the resources to drive to Winston-Salem and pick up the county’s allotment are nothing to worry about, according to the executive director.
“It all depends on what they want to do,” he said. “(Under the new model, local food pantries) have a choice as to whether they want to come here to us at our 65,000-square-foot distribution center, or they want us to deliver it.”
There is a fee for the delivery service, Fitzgerald said, but that fee is far below commercial shipping charges.
“Surry County is one of the counties where we deliver food,” he said. “We charge eight cents per pound for delivery, but there’s zero cost for the product. There is a little transportation cost, but they can get the food delivered to them in large refrigerated trucks if they choose, or they can come and pick it up.”
Fitzgerald said most of the counties served by Second Harvest use a combination of delivery and pickup.
“Some come here, and come have the product shipped to them but there is that maintenance fee that helps us keep diesel fuel in the trucks. It doesn’t cover our costs by a long shot, but it helps us keep them on the road,” he said.
Fitzgerald said that while details are still being worked out about the new program, there is no reason for concern.
“People will become familiar with us and the new system, and we hope that with the help of the local agencies, they will quickly become aware of this change and how they can continue to access these products on a monthly basis,” he said. “I think we’re a known entity in the county, and our commitment is to make sure Surry County receives 100 percent of its allocation.”
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.