Critical community needs


A Harvest of Compassion

In 2015, High Point was ranked as the number one metropolitan area in the United States for food hardship, as calculated by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). This crisis facing our hometown was one that we could not stand idly by and watch happen in our community. And thankfully, it was one that High Pointer Carl Vierling could not stand by and watch either.

Vierling, who had previously worked in a variety of roles – from HR director to pastor – was inspired after his move to High Point in 2003. After observing firsthand the problem of food insecurity, he decided to leverage his knowledge of collective impact models to create the Greater High Point Food Alliance (GHPFA).

“The idea was to take this holistic approach with community engagement,” Vierling says. “It was about urban agriculture, food education, senior citizens, our international community, and food access.”

“If you want to solve any issue, you've got to bring in people with different perspectives,” he adds. Philanthropists, community advocates, High Point University faculty, food pantry directors, city leaders, and people living in food deserts themselves all comprised the original board of volunteers for the GHPFA.

The group began meeting in December 2014, and by March 19, 2015, the Greater High Point Food Alliance hosted its first-ever Food Summit – a summit that would become an annual occurrence. In two days, the inaugural Food Summit gathered 500 people – making it one of the largest food summits ever hosted in the United States.

Within one year of the GHPFA inaugural Food Summit, 75 different action items had been accomplished by the teams and attendees at the Summit. As a “backbone organization,” the GHPFA began to flesh out its identity of helping individuals and organizations find their place within the ecosystem of foundational food security: agriculture, access, education, and support for vulnerable populations.


In order to guarantee that the efforts of the GHPFA were both maximized and sustainable, Vierling and his leadership team approached the Congdon Foundation for financial support. They showed the data and told the stories that proved the potential impact of their innovative, collective impact model in fighting the battle of food insecurity in High Point. The GHPFA became one of the Congdon Foundation’s first grants.

The grant ensured that the GHPFA had its operating expenses covered, so the leadership and volunteers could focus solely on the mission of unifying, empowering, and sustaining change to improve food access in High Point.

“The three words that mean the most to us are ‘unify,’ ‘empower,’ and ‘sustain,’” says Vierling. “We want to keep people from being in this situation, but we want to bring people together. We want to give them a voice, and then we want to see them take on this responsibility to get out of this situation.”

HPD_HP Farmers Market_peach

Catalyzed by the outcomes of the Food Summit, and with the support of the Congdon Foundation, the GHPFA leaders immediately got boots-on-the-ground, transforming the landscape of food security in High Point. And just like a well-tended garden, the harvest from the Greater High Point Food Alliance has proved to have a multiplier effect on High Point.

Today, the initiatives of the Greater High Point Food Alliance have planted nonprofits, like Growing High Point, an organization that helps scale sustainable urban farms in High Point.

The GHPFA has seeded programs like Double the Bucks, which doubles the worth of EBT dollars spent at the High Point Farmers’ Market. And the GHPFA has supported a myriad of food pantries, produce box deliveries for the homebound, and so much more.

Since 2015, High Point has fallen from #1 to #14 in the Food Research & Action Center ranking for food hardship – the largest percentage decrease in people experiencing food hardship in the nation. But just like any well-cultivated farm, it didn’t happen by accident or without a lot of hard work. In order for leaders to reap a harvest in the area of critical community needs, they need the resources to bring the right voices to the table, so they can solve problems.

“When I look around and see all that has been done to improve food security in our community, I know it would not have been possible without the generosity of the Congdon Foundation,” Vierling concludes.

“Their faith in the GHPFA allowed us to focus on what was most important: meeting the needs of our neighbors and making lasting change. By being able to focus on making an immediate impact instead of fundraising for operational expenses, we have been able to accomplish more than anyone would have thought possible. The impact of the GHPFA goes far beyond Guilford County. Very few foundations demonstrate the trust and faith in a new nonprofit that the Congdon Foundation has shown in the GHPFA. Their support is a source of comfort and encouragement.”

"All must give as they are able, according to the blessings given to them by the Lord your God."

Deuteronomy 16:17

"When you’re helped out,
it inspires you to help others."

EMILY CAROTHERS, Earl and Kitty Congdon Old Dominion Freight Line Scholarship Recipient

"Compassion is taking action. It’s not being satisfied with the status quo."

Carl Vierling, Greater High Point Food Alliance
Executive Director

"We’re creating our own ecosystem that is poised to turn our home into the “high point” of our state once more."

Rachel Collins, Business High Point

"Our board is deeply involved in High Point. Their commitment to the city is evident in their desire for the foundation to form real partnerships with our grant recipients, so that we can support them to grow their impact."

Rev. Dr. Joe Blosser,
Chief Impact Officer