Charity Spotlight: Fuquay-Varina Emergency Food Pantry

As summer rolls in, most of us are bracing ourselves for hot weather, and maybe planning a vacation if we’re lucky. Quite a few families aren’t so fortunate. For them, summer brings a darker concern: hunger. 

Food pantries notice increased requests this time of year, because many kids are out of school and don’t receive subsidized meals. In turn, the pantries’ inventories are stretched to the max. The Fuquay-Varina Emergency Food Pantry has observed this cycle since it was founded in 2001.

Today, the FVEFP serves an average of 550 to 600 families per month, totaling about 2,000 people who have food on the table thanks to its provisions.

In addition to families with young children, many of the pantry’s donations assist senior citizens. Those who depend on Social Security for their income often live on  just  a few hundred dollars a month, according to FVEFP co-director Frances Goddard. “They have to choose between medicine and food,” she said — or would, if not for the assistance of the pantry.

The Fuquay-Varina pantry uses the federal government’s standards of The Emergency Food Assistance Program to determine eligibility. People in need may stop by once every 30 days; homeless people with no place to store food may visit more frequently. Food donations of nonperishable items, fresh produce and meat come from local shops, churches and food drives.

While the FVEFP opens on Tuesdays and Thursdays to residents of Fuquay-Varina, Willow Spring and Holly Springs, staffers try to help everyone who needs a hand. “We serve everyone the first time they come in and try to help them find a pantry closer to where they live,” Goddard said. The pantry also attempts to connect its patrons with resources for financial assistance and clothing giveaways.

With no paid staff members, volunteers are the heart and soul of the organization. On-site positions include everything from paperwork to sorting through wilting produce. For those who want to help but can’t visit the pantry regularly, organizing a food drive is always appreciated. Home gardeners can even donate some of their crops to the effort. And prayer partners offer an entirely different type of support to anyone who requests a spiritual boost.

Direct volunteer opportunities are available to those in middle school and up, but younger children sometimes pitch in, too. One little girl named Kara Dershem requested nonperishable donations at her ninth birthday party, which she delivered to the FVEFP with a smile on her face.

Matthew Clay, a 14-year-old Boy Scout, volunteers in person every Thursday afternoon, carrying food and doling out produce to visitors.

He began volunteering a year ago as part of his Scout requirements. He met his quota long ago, but  has no plans to stop giving his time to the pantry. “It’s good to do service, but you learn a lot there too,” he said. “How to serve others better, and different ways you can help people.”

“You never know what you’re going to expect from a client when they come in,” Clay  said. “You never know what their situation is.” Visitors have shared stories of all sorts with Clay, from job losses to marital problems. But there’s a silver lining amid the sorrowful tales: “When someone’s situation gets better, they don’t come back.”

To see the Fuquay-Varina Emergency Food Pantry’s current needs and learn how you can help, visit

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