MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. -- The Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point Commissary joined local agencies early this year to donate more than 30,000 pounds supplies to feed thousands of hungry people across central and eastern North Carolina. The Commissary partnered with the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina to bolster food bank supplies and lessen the discarding of items marked unsellable throughout the store. Unsellable products are any food products that have passed their sell by date, products that have gotten wet or whose packaging appears too unsightly for sale, and cleaning supplies that are broken or some of the contents have spilled out. Other products deemed unsellable include some pet items, dented cans and holiday specific items.
The Cherry Point Commissary established a relationship with the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina in February after a furlough of commissary employees led to tons of good food going into the local landfill because it passed its "sell-by" date or had damaged packaging.
In response to this, Headquarters Marine Corps and the Defense Commissary Agency began planning to make use of the items. Under the new plan, the Cherry Point Commissary donates food to the New Bern Branch of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina to benefit more than 70 food bank partner agencies like food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens across the region. "It is really a win-win relationship between the commissary and the food banks," said Phyllis Black, director of the commissary here. "We are helping to feed thousands with food that would ordinarily go into a landfill." Donated food is still safe to consume but not in good enough condition for sale. As long as the inner packaging of unsellable items is not compromised, the item can be donated to citizens in need, said Black. "Before the food can be picked up by the food bank and distributed to those in need, the military food inspectors are responsible for inspecting the food to determine if it is still safe, edible and can be given away," said Black.
Once the food is inspected at the commissary, workers package and seal all donations in preparation for the food bank to receive twice a week. "Community support is essential to ensuring the food bank can achieve its mission," said Jennifer M. Caslin, coordinator of marketing and public relations with the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. "No one goes hungry in central and eastern North Carolina. That's our mission and it takes partnerships such as those with Cherry Point, retail partners, corporate partners and volunteers to ensure there is a strong safety net in place for those who need it." Once the food is delivered to the food bank's main warehouse in Raleigh, N.C., it is inspected again by food bank volunteers to ensure the product is still edible or useable. The warehouse then distributes usable items to food banks and charitable services in the community. The Cherry Point Commissary supports food banks across 34 North Carolina counties. The counties are broken up into six branches that collectively serve more than 3.2 million people annually.
"We as a team really love to get involved and help out when needed," said Black. "It gives me a warm-and-fuzzy feeling to know we are helping hungry people eat good food." Last fiscal year, the New Bern Branch food bank distributed more than 1.7 million pounds of food, enough to provide nearly 1.5 million meals for citizens who struggle to put food on the table, according to Caslin.
"We would not be able to do this without all of our wonderful donors and volunteers," said Caslin.