March 9, 2006

Food Pantry Expanding Efforts To Keep Local Community Fed

When we want something to eat, one generally rifles through the refrigerator or maybe takes a peak in the pantry. The latter is the best option for numerous area families who are receiving needed public assistance from the local food pantry being administered by the Scotland County Ministerial Alliance.

“The food pantry is something that most folks are aware, but yet many aren’t really familiar with,” stated Pastor Terry Lippstreu of the Memphis United Methodist Church.

As one of the ministerial alliance members, Lippstreu helps oversee one of the three stages of the monthly process to bring food to those in need in the community.

He is among the many volunteers that gather to help unload the truckload of goods that arrive in Scotland County on the first Thursday of each month. Hopkins Lumber and Memphis Lumber donate the service of their forklifts to help unload the dozen or more pallets of goods at the Northeast Missouri Community Action Agency, which currently houses the food pantry. The food comes from the Central Missouri Food Bank, free of charge.

Officially, the First Baptist Church is in charge of the truck unloading. The Methodist Church springs into action the following Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing in volunteers to sort and repackage the goods.

Then on the second Thursday and Friday of the month the foodstuffs are distributed by volunteers headed up by the First Christian Church.

“In a given month we generally have 30-40 volunteers throughout the process,” Lippstreu stated. “Of course these vary from month to month. There are some regulars but there is also a good mix of folks from the churches and the community as a whole.”

Recently that workforce has taken on a much larger load. In February the organization stepped up its efforts, more than doubling its output of foodstuffs to meet recommended guidelines of 28-pounds of food per person, per month.

“Last month we got a workout as more than 12,000 pounds worth of goods arrived for us to unload, sort through and distribute,” Lippstreu said. “We hope to continue that type of expanded service, offering more to the individuals and families that need the food pantry.”

Currently the food pantry serves approximately 180 households, or a total of 350 to 400 people. Providing 28-30 pounds of food per individual represents roughly a week’s supply of food.

The food pantry targets families that meet certain income requirements. Beverly Talbert of the Community Acton Agency stated that individuals are eligible for the service if their income falls below $1,196 a month. A family of four can receive the aid if the income level is below $2,419 a month.

“That never seems to be much of an issue, as all of the people work so well together,” Talbert stated. “There are income guidelines, but we are here to help those who need this food. It is such a team effort, I can’t say enough how great everyone is to work with. I’m always impressed by the number of recipients of the aid who turn around and volunteer their time to help unload the truck, sort and distribute the food for others.”

While the monthly truckload of foodstuffs does include necessities like milk, cheese, cereal and other government commodities, corporate donations and other gifts from retailers help spice up the offerings with such things as chips, cookies, frozen pizzas as well as some non-food items like soap, fabric softner, shampoo and other various toiletries.

“That’s one thing that seems to surprise workers the first time they see it,” Lippstreu said. “They often joke about giving out junk food, but when you stop and think about it, we all buy cookies, chips and soft drinks, so it is really great that we can offer these folks what everyone else is getting at the store.”

Speaking of the stores, Talbert and Lippstreu were quick to praise Village Market and J’s Foods who regularly donate freezer space to preserve meat and other perishable items once the pantry’s limited freezer space is filled.

The Share the Harvest project is one of the culprits for the lack of freezer space. Area hunters have donated enough venison so that every recipient of the food pantry goes home each month with a two-pound package of deer-burger.

Hunters are just part of the massive support efforts for the food pantry. A number of local organizations sponsor food drives with numerous other groups providing financial support to the ministerial alliance to help stock the emergency food pantry.

This service is not income-restricted, and functions solely through community support and donations to offer additional aid beyond the one-week’s worth of food offered by the food pantry. Financial gifts help the ministerial alliance fund purchases of perishable items to subsidize the canned goods and other foodstuffs stocked away in the emergency room.

“This is for special circumstances, when a family runs into extreme financial hardship or has other difficulties that mandate greater aid to keep food on the table,” Lippstreu said. “Unfortunately we see way too many people that fall into that gray area where one week’s worth of food isn’t enough to help them make it through the month.”

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