The early years…
CORA Food Pantry was founded in 1989 as the Chatham Outreach Alliance by a small group of Chatham County churches. The organization is recognized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation by the Internal Revenue Service. Its sole mission was – and continues to be – providing emergency food to any Chatham County resident or family in need.
In 1990, its first full year of operation, CORA served 253 families. After a decade of continued growth, by 2000 CORA was serving 480 families a year. By 2007 the demand for CORA’s services had increased by 500% to 2,400 families; and in 2009 the demand for emergency food increased yet again to more than 3,500 families.
CORA is affiliated with the Durham Branch Central and Eastern North Carolina Food Bank, a relationship that was formed in 1994. The Durham branch of the Food Bank is currently the site where CORA shops for its Food Bank food. Also in this time period, CORA successfully lobbied for the delivery of food from TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) directly to CORA and several other Chatham food pantries. TEFAP is a USDA commodity program that helps supplement the diets of low-income needy persons, including the elderly, by providing them with emergency food and nutrition assistance. (read more about where we get our food . . . )
By early 2006 the organization was facing a serious financial crisis. The demand for emergency food had grown beyond CORA’s capacity to support it. Determined to continue the organization’s mission, the board of directors went through a detailed strategic planning program during the fall and winter of 2006-2007. Following its newly outlined plan, CORA secured operating grants from the United Way of Chatham County, the Chatham County government and Carolina Meadows Retirement Community. This allowed the organization to hire its first paid staff, a part-time pantry manager and part-time executive director.
Since then CORA has received growing prominence in the community and respect of community leaders and residents. With the generous support of foundations, other organizations and hundreds of private donors it is now able to provide emergency food for a vastly increased number of people. CORA now serves an average of 500 families per month. To meet this demand, the Executive Director and Pantry Manager are now full-time employees. A donor relations/data assistant and a SNACK program project coordinator have also been added part-time. Volunteers fill all other functions at the pantry, including board members.
CORA expects to distribute 20,000 individual weekly food rations this fiscal year.