Food For Thought Celebrates 12 Years Helping Dare County Children

On Sunday, August 19, 2018, Food For Thought celebrated its 12th anniversary at their 2nd annual Back to School Beach Party Fundraiser at Duck Woods Country Club.

The casual fun event included dinner, drinks, and both silent & live auctions. All proceeds from ticket sales and auctions helped to purchase food for weekend meals.

Where did it all begin?

“Twelve years ago, too many children on the Outer Banks were going hungry,” said Linda White, president of Food for Thought. “And it is a known fact that proper nutrition is key to learning and thriving. That’s why Food for Thought was born. Thanks to our community’s generosity, this all-volunteer non-profit has fed more than 6300 children, providing healthy meals to build strong minds since its inception in February 2006.  Today, it provides two healthy non-perishable breakfasts, lunches and fresh fruit each weekend to youth who qualify for free and reduced breakfasts and lunches in all Dare County schools.”

How did it get started?  At the end of a bible study class, Helen Ford and Ed Hazlett, then Southern Shores residents and Duck United Methodist Church members, agreed they needed to do something for their community.  After seeing an ad in the The Virginian-Pilot about an after school program in Virginia Beach, they decided to see if there was such a need on the Outer Banks.  The answer was yes.

“We met with leaders in Dare County Social Services and schools and it was determined there was a significant need,” said Helen ford, co-founder of Food for Thought.  “The solution?  Healthy, weekend meals with fresh fruit as developed by the Dare County Schools nutritionist.  A plan and resources were developed and community partners were brought on board to initiate a pilot.”

The pilot served 54 children who met specific criteria at Manteo Elementary School.  It was so successful that it was expanded that fall to encompass all five elementary schools in Dare County – Cape Hatteras, First Flight, Kitty Hawk, Nags Head and Manteo plus all Head Start youth, three high schools and two middle schools.  When the program started, one in four Dare County elementary children was eligible for free or reduced breakfasts and lunches at school.  Today, the number of all Dare County youth eligible is about 37% versus when Food for Thought began in 2006.

The number of volunteers has risen from 80 from one church to 300 volunteers from 13 organizations. They pack weekend meal bags each week, order, receive and set up food and help staff special events.

The number of community partners – area businesses, government, media and community organizations, which has risen from two to 41, share an array of in-kind services and support including: accounting services, legal services, graphic design, printing, dental hygiene products, storage and transportation of food, media coverage, campaign promotional materials and special events.

Over the twelve years, the non-profit has collaborated with more than 100 community groups to benefit Food for Thought, raising awareness and proceeds to help area youth.  All funds are used to feed the children.

A few years ago, working with all high schools and middle schools to meet yet another need, the organization initiated the first mini pantries to provide personal items to help area youth.  Recently made aware of yet another concern, Food for Thought is working to obtain some much needed outer garments for area youth.

With an active 13-member volunteer board, Food for Thought makes about 25 annual presentations to help spread the word, has an annual membership meeting, and develops a monthly educational newsletter, Healthy Hints, in partnership with Dare County Department of Health, and a related newspaper column.

Food for Thought is an all-volunteer non-profit organization that provides healthy non-perishable breakfasts and lunches for more than 500 pre-school, elementary, middle and some high school students who meet specific criteria in Dare County on weekends during the school year.   Over the years, it has been recognized by a number of prominent organizations throughout the region, state and community.