Many food pantries depend on donations from the community to keep their shelves stocked, but a food bank in Lee County is pioneering a way to not only be sustainable but also self-sufficient.
Christians United Outreach Center is the latest home to a hydroponic farm in North Carolina. Now they can grow 365 days a year without regard to weather, pests, or disease and provide a continuous food supply for their clients.
"We found that during COVID, grocery stores did not have a lot of leftover produce," Teresa Kelly, the executive director of the center, said. "When we depend on that gleaning, we depend on that harvesting from them during the week, and if we're not getting that product, there's no availability."
She said the winter months are often the hardest time to find fresh produce in a food pantry. In the fall, many farmers and grocery stores have a surplus to donate, but the colder months tell a different story.
"Fresh produce is always a question and an issue for us," Kelly said. "Fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive. Even in the grocery store, they are the things that get passed by because it's cheaper to buy a can of soup."
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