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Vidant’s Little Free Pantry focuses on nutrition

In Beaufort County, approximately 20 percent of children are food-insecure, meaning their next meal may not be assured. They could go to bed hungry, or wake up the same. In Beaufort County, organizations have made efforts to make sure those who are hungry receive sustenance, anonymously, with no questions asked, with little, free food pantries.

Vidant Health recently joined forces with those feeding the hungry, with a Little Free Pantry of its own, this one with a focus on healthy, non-perishable foods — an outgrowth of a collaboration between Vidant Wellness Center and Vidant clinics’ staff.

“We wanted to find a way to provide for the community in another way than just healthcare and medicine,” said Audrey Taylor, the Wellness Center’s exercise physiologist. “We all kind of mutually felt that the Wellness Center would be the best place for it, since our focus is on health and wellness.”

Vidant launched a food drive to stock the pantry. Wellness Center members Gib Ash and Bob Nimmo volunteered to build it, and it now stands in the grass just off the Wellness Center parking lot on Cowell Farm Road. Instead of high-sugar, high-sodium, high-fat foods, the little free healthy pantry is drawing items such as canned fruit with no added sugar, low-sodium canned vegetables, low-sugar granola bars and many other healthier items.

“It’s finding things that will not only fill someone up, but also nourish their body, but we’re not pushing it to the extent we’re turning away any non-perishables,” Taylor said.

And it’s catching on.

“You can tell, as word is beginning to get out, every night it’s emptied out,” she said.

A food shopping cart, donated by Food Lion and spruced up with a coat of Vidant-turquoise paint, now sits in the lobby of the hospital, awaiting healthier nonperishable donations from employees and frequent visitors. Once the cart is full, it’s wheeled over to the Wellness Center to join other non-perishables donated at the Wellness Center.

Taylor said she’s currently seeking rice, boxed meals and dried items, such as beans, for restocking. She said the public is welcome to drop by the Wellness Center during its operating hours to donate to the pantry — they’d like to document donations, so they can keep track of how much food is being used from the pantry.