Nonprofit meets need as food insecurity rises in west Charlotte food desert

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CHARLOTTE — No one should have to worry about putting food on the table, but it’s a reality many are facing in west Charlotte.

From 2021 to 2022, Loaves and Fishes served thousands more families in ZIP codes 28208 and 28216. Channel 9′s Gina Esposito learned how one program contributed to that increase and the plans to bring even more help to the west side.

Rochelle Monroe, a mother of four, told Esposito with so many mouths to feed, and with no job right now, she’s has to face tough realities.

“Were you making decisions -- whether to pay rent or buying food?” Esposito asked.

“Yeah, or light bill,” Monroe said.

On top of that, Monroe doesn’t have a car, so getting to a grocery store or food pantry means pinching pennies for a ride. It’s why visits from Loaves and Fishes volunteers mean so much to her.

For a few months now, volunteers have been delivering boxes of food straight to Monroe’s front door -- one box for each family member.

“How long does a box of food typically last you and your four kids?” Esposito asked.

“Probably a week because I’ve got two big kids -- eat a lot,” Monroe said.

Tina Postel with Loaves and Fishes Friendship Trays told Esposito many people in west Charlotte face similar struggles.

In 2022, Loaves and Fishes fed more than 18,000 people in ZIP codes 28208 and 28216 -- a 33% increase from 2021. Of those served in 2022, nearly a quarter chose home delivery. That service launched in 2020 during the pandemic.

“How have you been able to serve more people there?” Esposito asked.

“I would say the explosion that we’ve seen, especially in those two ZIP codes, is based on our new home grocery delivery model,” Postel said. “So many are food insecure, but we didn’t realized how many people have transportation barriers. So now that we deliver right to someone’s doorstep, people have been reaching out even more.”

Alesha Brown is the executive director of For the Struggle.

“This is definitely what we call a food desert,” Brown said.

The nonprofit feeds 140 seniors each week through its food delivery program in west Charlotte.

“Why do you think there was a bigger need last year?” Esposito said.

“I don’t think there was a bigger need last year -- I think Loaves and Fishes is doing an incredible job of taking an equitable approach to the work they are doing in the community, which I applaud them for. They are one of our primary partner organizations,” Brown said.

Loaves and Fishes Friendship Trays plans to do even more. The nonprofit is moving its entire operation from south Charlotte to a warehouse in west Charlotte so it can be closer to more of the people who really need them.

The new warehouse is near Interstate 85, in between Beatties Ford Road and Brookshire Boulevard. It will include more cold storage for fresh foods, a teaching kitchen so families can learn how to cook, a food pantry, and space dedicated to the home delivery program, which aims to expand.

“If everything comes together, we hope to be operating out of the new space by Thanksgiving of this year,” Postel said.

For Rochelle Monroe, it means the chance to keep serving up her family’s favorites.

“I’m very thankful for it,” she said.

“With the transportation -- what I don’t have -- is very grateful,” she added.

Loaves and Fishes said they’re only able to expand the home delivery program if they have enough delivery drivers. If you would like to volunteer, click here for information.

(WATCH BELOW: Loaves and Fishes, other local nonprofits experiencing increase in demand during pandemic)

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