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.
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
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. During the fiscal year ended June 2010, CORA
provided more than 13,700 individual weekly food rations (the equivalent of 304,000
meals) for needy Chatham residents.
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