GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — About 1 in 5 people in Guilford County and Winston-Salem are food insecure, and that’s way higher than most of the country.

That’s why the volunteers with Out of the Garden Project are so dedicated to making sure people in the Piedmont Triad have access to the food they need.

The story of Out of the Garden Project dates back to 2009.

Don and Kristy Milholin’s kids were going to Morehead Elementary School when they noticed that several of their classmates were struggling to get the food they needed outside of school.

“We felt called to help make a difference in these children’s lives, and so we started what eventually became the Out of the Garden Project in our home around our dining room table,” they said.

It started with the Milholin’s preparing a small bag of food each Friday for about six to 10 families. The hope is that this small act would help the families get through the weekend.

What you may not have known is that Winston-Salem is the 7th most food insecure metropolitan area in the United States, and Greensboro-High Point is the #14, according to the Food Research and Action Center’s data for 2016-2017.

As a state, North Carolina ranked as the 17th most food insecure state in the United States. South Carolina ranked #7, and the #1 was Mississippi.

“The free and reduced-price meals they receive at school are helpful, but more can and should be done to help these children,” the Milholin’s said. “The fact is that without adequate nutrition, children’s brains and bodies will struggle to grow. This makes learning more difficult and their futures more precarious. Thanks to you, we are not standing idly by.”

StateFood Hardship RateRank
Bakersfield, CA23.20%1
Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA22.00%2
Fresno, CA22.00%3
Jackson, MS21.30%4
New Orleans-Metairie, LA21.10%5
Memphis, TN-MS-AR20.70%6
Winston-Salem, NC20.20%7
Baton Rouge, LA20.10%8
Albuquerque, NM20.00%9
Columbia, SC19.50%10
Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC19.40%11
Tulsa, OK19.30%12
El Paso, TX19.20%13
Greensboro-High Point, NC19.20%14
Oklahoma City, OK19.20%15
Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL19.10%16
Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL18.80%17
Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR18.40%18
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL18.30%19
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL18.20%20

Now, Out of the Garden Project is the largest organization of its kind in the Triad.

Every week, they serve 2,000 students and families in the Piedmont Triad, and every month, they distribute 325,000 meals. Last year, they distributed 4 million meals. And that’s just the impact they’re making by packaging and distributing food.

While donations and the support of volunteers is a huge help to Out of the Garden Project, they needed a way to become more independent and sustainable. In November 2018, they launched The Urban Teaching Farm initiative with the “aim to be a financially, ecologically and culturally sustainable farm so that we can improve access to fresh foods and provide learning opportunities in our community.” The farm allows Out of the Garden Project to teach people in the community how to farm and learn agricultural skills so they can grow their own food.

The Out of the Garden Project also runs a shared-use commericial kitchen at 3910 Clifton Road in Greensboro. This kitchen gives local chefs and entrepreneurs who may not be able to afford a commercial kitchen of their own a place to cook, whether it’s to sell or to educate. The kitchen has a 6-burner commercial range, a convection oven, 10 and 20 quart commercial mixers, a microwave oven, stainles steel tables for safe and sanitary food prep, a commercial fridge for cooling during production and a locked space with shelving for dry storage.

Out of the Garden Project has made an enormous difference in the Triad, but they still need help. They could always use extra hands to help pack and distribute food. The FOX8 family was able to contribute in honor of Founders Day of Caring in June, so we can tell you first-hand: you won’t regret it.