RALEIGH — With the assistance of funds through the N.C. Department of Transportation, Rutherford County Transit is helping connect those in need with a local food bank through a unique partnership.
In January, after seeing signs along the side of the road numerous times advertising free food at Storehouse Pantry, a local food pantry, Rutherford County Transportation Services Director Kerry Giles decided to learn more about the service and investigate ways that the transit system could help get the food to those who need it the most.
Within a week, Rutherford County Transit began offering free transportation to Storehouse Pantry on Thursdays to residents who don’t have access to transportation.
“This partnership is a perfect marriage of services,” said Giles. “The pantry provides the food and we eliminate the transportation barrier, ensuring that people are able to get to the food that they need – it just made sense.”
Approximately 100 residents use the service a month, and Giles is looking at ways to increase those numbers.
“We use five vans that seat eight people. With food onboard, we can only fit four people on each vehicle,” said Giles. “We’re working with local churches to set up a schedule where they use their vehicles to transport the food so we can fill our vans with more people.”
In addition to transporting more people per vehicle, Rutherford County Transit is also looking at expanding hours of the service, which would enable the system to possibly schedule two runs per vehicle. They’re also running some routes on Tuesdays to accommodate residents from areas with a higher need. Giles is also looking to partner with other free food distribution sites in the area to increase the amount of food making its way to those who need it in Rutherford County.
How it Works:
Every Thursday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m., Rutherford County Transit vans pick up residents of various communities. The current schedule is as follows:
• 1st Thursday – Forest City, Cliffside and Henrietta;
• 2nd Thursday – Rutherfordton, Spindale, Ruth and Green Hill;
• 3rd Thursday – Sunshine, Bostic and Golden Valley; and
• 4th Thursday – Ellenboro, Mooresboro and Harris.
The service is offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Due to limited seating, interested riders must call in advance to reserve a seat. Upon arrival, riders must bring a form of identification, as well as proof of residency, such as a utility bill. Storehouse Pantry requires anyone interested in receiving free food to fill out an eligibility form.
Residents can only ride once a month. One person per household, 18-years-old or older, can ride. No coolers can be brought on board and cancellations must be made at least 24 hours in advance.
NCDOT’s Public Transportation Division (PTD) supports Rutherford County Transit through the Rural Operating Assistance Program. NCDOT-PTD awards grant funds to local public transportation systems. These grants enable systems to provide people in all 100 counties access to education, job opportunities and health care.
For more information on grant programs through the Public Transportation Division of NCDOT, as well as transit systems that serve the public throughout the state, visit www.ncdot.gov/nctransit.
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Rutherford County Transit Driver Earl Crowder, right; and a passenger loading food into a transit vehicle.