Published: Nov 30, 2011 02:00 AM
Modified: Nov 28, 2011 10:44 PM
CHAPEL HILL - Two local hunger-relief groups have broken ties with a third.
The Inter-Faith Council for Social Service and the TABLE organization recently told PORCH (People Offering Relief for Chapel Hill Carrboro Homes) they would no longer accept its food donations.
PORCH collects nonperishable food from porches every month for eight area pantries and food programs. Those programs included the IFC and TABLE, which provides food to elementary students when they're not in school.
IFC executive director Chris Moran said PORCH's original model has changed to include Food for Families, a program that uses cash donations to buy fresh food for Burmese refugees and others who don't use food pantries.
"It's not about not wanting PORCH's food, it's about the fact that the PORCH's mission has changed from collecting food to ... developing their own food service programs," Moran said Monday. "When those situations arise, there's going to be ultimately less donations to all of the groups they originally agreed to support."
"We need food, but we do not want our donors to think because PORCH exists we're going to get all of their food," he continued. "We don't want our donors and supporters to think just because we're listed prominently on their website we feel their decision to change their mission has been necessarily transparent or in coordination with the Inter-Faith Council. In the past year they raised a lot of money, but we've never gotten a dime of it."
Susan Romaine, a PORCH founder, said the break has been disappointing and confusing to the 2,000 households that participate in PORCH.
"I think there's been a lot a lot of misunderstanding. I think there's been a lot of misrepresentations," she said.
Romaine said the group told Moran in January it was providing direct food services. PORCH sends out monthly e-mails to all of its pantries, including TABLE and the IFC, and includes a note in all e-mails to donors that cash donations go toward purchasing fresh food.
According to tax records, PORCH received $68,157 in contributions in 2010. It spent $1,117 on administrative and other costs and $52,268 on Food for Families grants.
Food for Families provides another layer of help for families, referred by school social workers, who often slip through the cracks, Romaine said.
"From our perspective there has been plenty of opportunities for all of the pantries to let us know that they were not happy with the amount of food they were getting," she said. "We just never had the conversation because we never knew this was an issue. This is in no way intended as a competition as a duplication of services."
The group plans to talk with TABLE and IFC early next year, Romaine said. "I think this community feels rejected and cannot understand ... why at a time when we hear about more and more families falling into poverty...how could this possibly be that the two most-respected pantries are saying no to food," she said.
PORCH has distributed 8,669 bags of groceries to eight groups in 2011 including 2,218 to TABLE and 1,971 to the IFC, according to PORCH.
Joy MacVane, executive director of TABLE, said for her group to remain sustainable, the public must know TABLE has a distinct mission and is not a part of PORCH.
"Our board has decided there's just too much public confusion right now between PORCH and TABLE," she said. "We really need people to know we're a separate organization with a separate mission."
Both TABLE and the IFC said they will be able to serve those they've always served without PORCH donations. PORCH contributed about 10 percent of the IFC's food pantry donations, Moran said.Read a longer version of this story on the OrangeChat blog at blogs.newsobserver.com/orangechat/home