City News

Business Inclusion & Advancement - June 28, 2019

Thanks to a connection made through the city's Think Orange campaign, 280 children in Winston-Salem are receiving meals during summer weekends through a new partnership between the Forsyth Backpack Program and Ezekiel A.M.E. Zion Church.

The meals are delivered to kids enrolled in the summer day camp programs at five city recreation centers, and at three other sites in the city. Each child receives a backpack with four shelf-stable meals on Friday afternoon -- two meals for Saturday and two for Sunday, said Carol Templeton, the president of the Forsyth Backpack Program.

The seed for their partnership was planted in April when Templeton found herself seated next to Rosemary Stimpson at Mayor Allen Joines' second Think Orange Roundtable on Combating Hunger. Stimpson oversees the summer feeding program that Ezekiel A.M.E. Zion Church has operated for the past 14 years.

As they introduced themselves and explained their programs to each other, Templeton and Stimpson realized that they could help each other. "They were already delivering meals during the summer -- during the weekdays -- but they did not have coverage for the weekends," Templeton said. "Forsyth Backpack was looking to expand into a summer program but had no means for distribution."

Stimpson said, "I told her that if she could get them packed, we have three vans that could distribute them. So we started exploring how we could work together."

Subsequent to that conversation, Forsyth Backpack received a grant from BB&T to buy shelf-stable weekend meals from Second Harvest Food Bank. Bank employees then volunteered to help package the meals into backpacks with four meals each. All told, they provided 1,736 backpacks for Ezekiel to distribute over the course of the summer.

The first backpacks were distributed June 21, the first weekend of the summer feeding program. That day, 280 backpacks were distributed to children at five city recreation centers, the Rolling Hills and Piedmont Park apartments and Ezekiel A.M.E. Zion church. That's less than a third of the 29 sites that Ezekiel serves during the week. "We tried to pick the sites with the greatest need," Stimpson said.

Templeton added, "We figure that we need to start somewhere, and (29 sites) was too big a chunk to bite it all off at once. So we’re using this as a pilot project to see how it works."

The city announced its Think Orange campaign last August after receiving a grant from the National League of Cities to expand the use of federal nutrition programs to fight hunger in the community.

The campaign is being carried out by a coalition of  organizations involved with fighting hunger, including the nutrition program for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, Second Harvest food Bank, Help Our People Eat, Ezekiel A.M.E. Zion Church, Forsyth Backpack, Cobblestone Farmers Market and city recreation centers that serve as summer feeding sites.

Additionally, Joines has held two Think Orange roundtables for business and community leaders to raise awareness of the campaign and solicit their support.

"Really," Templeton said, "this partnership was not going to come about but for the Think Orange campaign. Because I never would have met Rosemary. And that’s what the Think Orange campaign is, to get people in the community to start talking to each other to come up with creative solutions about hunger."

For more information about the Think Orange campaign, go to ThinkOrangeWS.org.

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