Updated: Apr 26
Robert Branch is wearing his Second Harvest Food Bank cap and driving his truck east on I-40, classic rock playing quietly on the radio as he rolls along. His destination is the Walmart Distribution Center in Mebane, a massive 450,000-square-foot center that distributes perishable food to more than 55 Walmart stores in North Carolina and Virginia. “It’s basically the biggest refrigerator you will ever see,” says Branch.
Once there, Branch skillfully backs the Second Harvest truck up to the loading bay. He does this effortlessly, showing his years of experience as a truck driver, and then heads inside.
Large pallets of fresh vegetables and meats are stacked near the bay where the Second Harvest truck sits. Quickly, Walmart employees, wearing winter-wear inside, even though it is warm outside, use forklifts to load up the truck with pallets of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, yellow squash, yogurt, meats, and more. Branch watches, making hash marks on his clipboard.
Finally, a large pallet of grapes is added to the back. The trailer is so full that the door will only just close.
“This partnership has made a huge difference in the quantity of healthy, fresh produce items we can distribute,” says Eric Aft, Second Harvest’s CEO. “The problem of hunger in our communities is not so much a shortage of calories as it is a shortage of resources to secure more nutrient-rich options. People who are struggling financially are, understandably, often more concerned with quantity than quality.”
The food bank team loads the food from Walmart into large walk-in coolers. Soon, volunteers and staff from Second Harvest’s large network of food pantries are coming through the pick up line to pick up fresh produce, milk and dairy items, frozen meats and shelf-stable staple items for their programs. Others will receive these same items through Second Harvest's Rural Delivery program.
“It’s neat to think of how far these items will travel,” remarks Jenny Moore, Second Harvest’s Director of Communications and PR . “From the donor to the food bank to a food pantry to someone’s home and table. It takes a lot of work and a lot of people who care to make it happen.”
The produce the Second Harvest team picks up from the Walmart Distribution Center in Mebane, North Carolina reaches families from Boone to Burlington, and everywhere in between. More 430 food assistance programs rely on Second Harvest for the food they provide to local children, families, and seniors. In fact, more than 80 percent of the food being distributed by our partner network comes from Second Harvest.
Second Harvest has been moving food across Northwest North Carolina for nearly 40 years. It is important work, as food insecurity and poverty remain consistent problems for the region.
“At Second Harvest, we believe not only that everyone deserves to eat, but that everyone deserves to be able to access fresh, healthy foods to support a well-balanced diet and good health,” says Aft.
From having nutrition professionals on staff, to working with health care professionals focusing in on food security as a major component of community health, to advocating for food and anti-poverty policies that will help Northwest North Carolina families who are struggling to make ends meet, Second Harvest takes nutrition very seriously.
The partnerships that Second Harvest has with grocery retailers like Walmart and others ensure that we have high-quality and nutritionally dense food, and right now, these partners are inviting you to...FIGHT HUNGER. SPARK CHANGE. Learn how here.