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Durham County Food Security

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In Durham County, before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 1 in 4 Latino and 1 in 6 Black residents skipped meals or ate less food because they did not have enough money. The effects of the pandemic have made it even harder for people to have enough money to buy food, especially Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) families.

Food security: Being able to always buy or safely get nutritious food.

Durham County Government is committed to developing a just food system that is better for the planet and works to end food insecurity. We will lift up BIPOC voices.

Marcella Thompson and daughter with vegetable boxes

Marcella Thompson, through the Mustard Seed Project, provides nutritious food and other assistance to over 250 families. With the help of her daughter Alexandria, she picks up baked goods, USDA boxes, and vegetable donations from NC Black Farmers Tall Grass Food Box.

Durham Food Security Network

With direction from the Durham County COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center and in partnership with organizations, Durham County staff started the COVID-19 Food Security Task Force in April 2020. The Task Force helped get emergency food contracts, worked with community partners, and gave out masks and other supplies. The Task Force had regular virtual meetings for partners to share information and build relationships. Through this work, Durham County spent more than $1 million to help provide food for people in need. The Triangle Nonprofit & Volunteer Leadership Center presented the “Community Spirit Award” to the Durham County COVID-19 Food Security Task Force in June 2021.

The group continues to meet and has evolved, shifting its focus on food justice, along with emergency food assistance. In early 2022, the group changed its name to the Food Security Network (the Network) with the stated purpose of uniting efforts and transforming systems to ensure that all people have access to enough safe and nutritious food. The group aims to create a food system that is: equitable, resilient, and sustainable for all people of Durham.

Modeling an equity approach, in September 2022, the Network shifted decision-making and leadership by creating a Steering Committee made up of to community members. Steering Committee members include:

  • Adrian Tucker
  • Erika Smith-Punches
  • Fiorella Horna
  • Kate Brodie
  • Kelly Warnock
  • Kylee McCombs
  • Linden Thayer
  • Monique Bethell
  • Shaneeka Moore Lawrence
  • Taniscia Davis
Cheralyn Berry carrying small plants

Cheralyn Berry, N.C. Cooperative Extension of Durham County Agent, runs the Briggs Avenue Community garden program. Through the work of volunteers, the garden supplied the Durham Tech food pantry with 1,750 lbs of food in 2020. They also gave away 8,000 plants, installed raised gardens for elders, and delivered produce to gardening families who have been unable to get there.

Food Security Coordinator

In Spring 2021, Durham County hired its first Food Security Coordinator, Mary Oxendine. The County created this new position to support the community to create a strong and equitable food system for residents to find affordable and healthy food. Want to get involved in this community-led work? Contact Mary at or join the Durham County Food Security listserv.

Photo of Mary Oxendine

Mary is working to develop a comprehensive, equitable, and sustainable approach to addressing food security in Durham County. Read Durham County’s Press Release: Durham County Welcomes First County Food Security Coordinator

Community in Action: Reaching Out to Durham’s Hungry Project

The Reaching Out to Durham’s Hungry project is a beautiful photo exhibit that documents some of the amazing work Durham community members are doing to help their neighbors who are food insecure. Rhonda Klevansky thoughtfully helps tell the story of food security work in Durham. Find banners and photos around Durham or visit End Hunger Durham.

Three women leaning on boxes

Feed My Sheep of Durham Food Pantry offers Hope, Healing, and Hospitality throughout the city. They take care of 240 families twice a month, up from 50 families before the pandemic. It is organized by Jacquelyn Blackwell with the help of volunteers including Dilly Garcia and Helen Taylor, as seen in this photograph.

Man pushing cart

Guillermo Salamea, at the Iglesia Presbiteriana Emanuel pantry. He and 70 volunteers have been feeding nearly 600 families every week, up from 60 people before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Man holding bag and egg carton

Julian Xie, one of the founders of the Duke Root Causes Fresh Produce Program, delivering food. The program serves 300 patients referred mainly from Duke primary care clinics and Lincoln Community Health Center, and every week, a squadron of volunteers, Duke graduate, professional, and undergraduate students, take food on a rotating schedule to the homes of 150 families. Their long-term goal is that healthcare will encompass food distribution and equitable access to good nutrition.

Food Security Resources

Durham Resources

State and National Resources

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