In the case of Heavenly Groceries it seems that food has everything to do with it. It's obvious that food is central to Heavenly Groceries because it's a food bank where people come to to receive the food they need. Food is essential for survival. But beyond nutrition, food is finding, choosing, providing, cooking and eating. Heavenly Groceries is not just on a shelf, the food is used -- it's a part of home, of culture, of life. At Heavenly Groceries, it is obvious how much care people take to choose the food that they will enjoy, and that those they are cooking for will enjoy. People cook for occasions, for each other, because they enjoy it. At Heavenly Groceries, there is an overwhelming feeling that the food is feeding soul and body.
"Food is God"
A regular patron at Heavenly Groceries brings some of the guardians notes about spirituality, the universe, and -- as seen above -- food. The text of the note shown in the thumbnail is composed by the patron heard in the audio discussing food.
The food at Heavenly Groceries is sourced from 3 different grocery stores as well as from other food banks in North Carolina and personal donations from community members. The food is often plentiful, and it changes every day. There is variety, and just like the rest of Heavenly Groceries, the selection is dynamic. Heavenly Groceries set up like a grocery store where patrons can choose what food they want, and have the chance to shop.
The food at Heavenly Groceries is as abundant as the love, more so than some of the patrons have ever witnessed...
"One moment that has struck me the most, is when a lady from Guam came back in the place towards the end of my shift and took a picture of the food leftover on the tables. She told me that this was not something she saw in Guam and teared up a bit. She said it was unheard of for people to just give out free food... Food has always been something I have taken for granted. I have never had to worry about not having it and I never asked where it came from, I just expected it to always be there. My status as a volunteer is still there, but it no longer feels so separating." - Tatiana, a UNC Student
Ronnie told us one day that everybody basically eats the same thing, and that all good food starts with the 'trinity': onions, garlic, and celery. He might be right, but from conversations with patrons at Heavenly Groceries, we know there is a lot of variety in what people cook with the same ingredients. Some of the patrons at Heavenly Groceries were kind enough to take home disposable cameras and take a few photos of the food they were cooking and eating. A few of the results are below.
We had the chance to get to know a couple of the regular patrons a bit better and speak with them more in depth, or over a period of weeks. We share their stories below:
Below is a conversation we had with Berthe in her home about her life in Chad and Chapel Hill. In the first half, she talks about her story and struggles as a refugee. In the second half, she talks about her relationship with Heavenly Groceries. The quality of the video is poor as her son, Prosper, was very excited by our video equipment and asked if he could work the camera.