Questions & Answers
Questions & answers for our most common inquiries. Please contact us if your question is not addressed.
- What is Loaves & Fishes?
Loaves & Fishes is a nonprofit emergency food pantry program which provides a week's worth of nutritionally balanced groceries to individuals and families in a short-term crisis through a network of 37 pantries located throughout Mecklenburg County. In 2019 Loaves & Fishes served 80,232 people, 36% of which were children.
- What is an emergency food program?
Loaves & Fishes was created to meet emergency food needs brought about by a crisis situation. Loaves & Fishes sees its mission as providing a hand up in a crisis, not a hand out. Clients are screened to determine need and may visit a pantry up to eight times in a 365 day period.
- Who are Loaves & Fishes’ clients?
Loaves & Fishes serves the general population in Mecklenburg Co. -- including the working poor, disabled, those on fixed incomes, and people who have been laid off or had their work hours reduced. Many of our clients live on very limited incomes and lack the resources to feed their families when unexpected expenses arise or income is lowered. For some their income is so low that it is difficult to make it through a month even when there is no emergency. There is no discrimination between gender, race, religion or age. The average monthly household income of our clients in 2019 was $1,220.
- How did Loaves & Fishes begin?
Loaves & Fishes began in 1975 when a handful of people in our community recognized the growing hunger needs in our area and opened a single food pantry to address those needs. That first year, Loaves & Fishes fed approximately 1,000 people. Since 1975, Loaves & Fishes has grown to a network of 41 food pantries located throughout Mecklenburg County.
- How can an individual or family receive services?
Clients must have a referral to receive services from Loaves & Fishes. Charlotte Mecklenburg Human Service Agencies, qualified ministries, local clergy, school counselors, social workers and medical providers screen and evaluate cases. After screening, clients are sent to one of Loaves & Fishes' pantries to receive a week's worth of groceries for themselves and their family members.
- After receiving a referral to Loaves & Fishes, how do clients receive groceries and what type of food is provided?
Loaves & Fishes provides Client Choice shopping which enables our clients to choose items their families like while providing a grocery store experience. Clients choose a specified number of items from each food category based on family size (proteins, grains, vegetables, fruits, etc…) enough groceries to prepare a week’s worth of meals. Client Choice gives clients control over the foods they choose rather than receiving prebagged groceries. Choosing what they know their families will eat cuts down on waste and provides dignity to the client. The food categories and quantities were determined by a Registered Dietitian.
Groceries include nonperishable food such as cereal, canned vegetables and fruit, pastas and 100% juice; perishable items such as fresh meat and produce, eggs, cheese, and yogurt; and personal care items including toothbrushes, soap, and toilet paper.
- How often can someone visit Loaves & Fishes?
Clients may visit a Loaves & Fishes' pantry up to eight times in a rolling 365 day period. Clients are encouraged to use Loaves & Fishes as an emergency food service, not as a regular food source.
- What does Loaves & Fishes need?
Nonperishable foods (click here for priority needs list), volunteers, upright frost free freezers and refrigerators in good working condition, and funds to purchase food for clients and to subsidize warehouse and food delivery costs.
Please note that we cannot accept donations of home prepared food, refrigerators & freezers not in good working order, chest freezers, clothing or furniture.
- How do I conduct a food drive?
Loaves & Fishes is in need of food throughout the year. Click here for information on how to conduct a food drive.
- Who works for Loaves & Fishes?
The vast majority of Loaves & Fishes' work is done by nearly 4,000 volunteers, both groups and individuals, that are actively involved in our program. In the pantries, volunteers help our clients choose their groceries and stock pantry shelves. In our phone center, volunteers take referrals for clients needing food assistance. In our warehouse, individual volunteers assist with pantry deliveries, the picking up of food donations, pulling grocery orders for distribution and a host of other tasks as they arise. Volunteer groups are essential to help in the warehouse to sort and pack food donations for distribution to our pantries. To become a volunteer, please fill out our volunteer form here.
- What is the difference between Loaves & Fishes and a food bank?
Loaves & Fishes and Second Harvest Food Bank are partners, working together to fight hunger in our community. Loaves & Fishes provides a week’s worth of groceries through a network of food pantries in Mecklenburg County. Second Harvest serves as a supplier for agencies, warehousing surplus food that they distribute to agencies such as Loaves & Fishes, local shelters and soup kitchens in a 19 county region in North and South Carolina.
- What are the sources of Loaves & Fishes food and funding?
Individual Donations, Corporations, Foundations, Congregations, Scouting for Food (annual food drive conducted by Mecklenburg Co. Council of Boy Scouts held the first Saturday in February), National Association of Letter Carrier’s Food Drive (annual food drive in May, co-sponsored by US Postal Service), Charlotte CROP Hunger Walk (citywide fundraising walk in October), Thanksgiving Food Drives (area school food drives), Emergency Food and Shelter Program (total amount of fund is allocated to direct food purchases).
- Does Loaves & Fishes have an annual audit?
Yes. The accounting firm of GreerWalker conducts our annual professional audit. Copies of the audit can be found in the About Us Page under Financial Reporting or at the Loaves & Fishes’ Administrative Offices.
- How do I get more information about Loaves & Fishes?
For more information about Loaves & Fishes, and how you, your business or organization can help with food contributions, tax-deductible donations, in-kind donations, and volunteer opportunities, please contact us:
Loaves & Fishes
648 Griffith Road, Suite B
Charlotte, NC 28217
- What do I need in order to make a food referral for Loaves & Fishes?
Families and individuals must be referred in order to visit a Loaves & Fishes pantry. Referrals can come from school counselors, a medical provider, a social worker, a pastor from the family’s house of worship or any Mecklenburg County human service and other approved agencies.
To make a referral, simply call Loaves & Fishes, 9:00am-4:30pm Monday – Friday at (704) 523-4333. Be sure to call from your organization’s phone, not a cell phone, so the name of your organization appears on caller ID.
When making the referral please have the following information:
Name, Date of Birth, last four digits of the Social Security Number, Gender and Race of EVERY person you will be referring. This includes seniors, adults and children.
Veteran status, if the person is receiving Food Stamps or SNAP, if this is a person with a disability and how many children in the household need diapers.
Current address of the household including zip code.
Monthly household income (this has no bearing on the client’s ability to receive food or how much food they receive. This is an informational requirement only.)
Client’s preferred pantry location and date of pick up. Please have a second location in case the first choice is at capacity.
Click here for a list of pantry locations and hours of operations.
- How do I become an approved referring agency for Loaves & Fishes?
To become an approved referring agency for Loaves & Fishes, click here.
- What is the difference between a full-size pantry and a mini-pantry?
Loaves & Fishes has 19 "full-size" pantries (listed under the Food Pantries tab) and 18 "mini-pantries" including two food pharmacies. A full-size pantry provides a week's worth of nutritionally balanced groceries including perishable items such as fresh meat and produce, eggs, yogurt, cheese and bread. A mini-pantry provides an immediate two-day supply of nutritionally balanced groceries for clients accessing the services where the mini-pantry is located. Mini-pantries can then make referrals for clients to shop at a full size pantry as needed. Loaves & Fishes' mini-pantries are located at Crisis Assistance Ministry, Goodwill, Dept. of Social Services, Community Resource Center, C.W. Williams CHC, Jewish Family Services, Servant's Heart of Mint Hill, CPCC, JCSU and UNCC.
Loaves & Fishes has partnered with One Charlotte Health Alliance to open food pharmacies at CMC Biddlepoint and Movement Medical Clinic. At a food pharmacy, approved medical patients that screen positive for food insecurity can receive an immediate two day supply of nutritionally balanced groceries; Clinicians can then make referrals for clients to shop at a full size pantry as needed and educate patients on selecting healthy food choices to assist with chronic disease treatment and/or prevention.
In addition, Loaves & Fishes has partnered with ONE Charlotte Health Alliance (OCHA) to bring two, first-of-its-kind mobile food pharmacies to Charlotte. The mobile food pharmacies will travel to communities identified as “food deserts,” where access to nutritious, fresh food is limited by the barriers of availability, cost and transportation. Click here for more information about the mobile food pharmacies.