CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte food pantry is in need of canned meats, peanut butter, and pasta sauce.
The Hearts Beat as One Foundation food pantry has been inundated with people in need since last summer, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One Charlotte caterer is making it his mission to manage the food pantry and give back to the community.
In fact, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nate Turner turned his catering business, Your Custom Catering, from weddings and corporate events to helping the community.
Turner’s business gained local and federal government contracts to give meals to schools, families, seniors, and even Charlotte’s "Tent City," before it was vacated.
"My mom had us out at soup kitchens feeding anyone that we were able to do,” Turner says, reflecting on his childhood.
Those lessons he learned as a child followed him into adulthood.
"Anytime you’re able to make it in the world, you should be able to give back to anybody else that is in need,” Turner adds.
So, he sprung into action, managing his catering business and getting involved at what was the church’s food pantry.
Originally at Wedgewood Church, the food pantry had to move due to building changes. It partnered with the Hearts Beat as One Foundation and Turner was named chair of the pantry a few months ago.
He’s in the pantry, handling and sorting purchases, and working on distribution and organization almost every Wednesday without fail.
"We really wanted to help as much as possible, and so when the pandemic happened, we jumped right to it,” Turner says.
For example, at the height of the pandemic last summer, they averaged giving away 150 bags a week. Eventually, it built up to more than 600 the week of Christmas.
Demand at the pantry reflected what Nate was seeing with his business.
“We switched over to partnering with the city, local government, and then government agencies that provides food for kids,” Turner adds.
The contracts helped keep his business afloat and eventually became about more than just giving away meals.
“Even if it was a dress shirt so they could go apply for a job, if I was able to bring that to them the next day I came out there? Then that was what i was doing,” Nate says about his time feeding Tent City.
Turner spends hundreds of dollars of his own money to help the food pantry and is always available when emergency food situations arise, according to his husband.
Together, the two brought in other LGBTQ friends and family to help each Wednesday. Now, the pantry is run by roughly 75% LGBTQ volunteers.
Striving to make it an inclusive, welcoming, and non-judgmental space, volunteers like Liz Schob say they take the same message to the food’s recipients.
"I don’t care what clothes you’re wearing, what car you drive, if you show up and say you need food, we’re going to give you food without judgment. And I think that’s what makes places like this really special,” Schob says while sorting food bags.
Schob is Wedgewood Church’s community outreach coordinator and has been involved with the food pantry a few years now.
If you want to donate to the food pantry, you can take non-perishable food items to 3520 Dewitt Lane on any day of the week while Hearts Beat as One is open. If you want to donate perishable items like bread, please bring donations on Wednesday.
They are in specific need of peanut butter, pasta sauce, canned meat, and diapers size 1-5.
If you need food, the pantry distributes bags Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. at the same location. Lines usually form around 4:30 p.m.