Cassville food pantry hitting record numbers served

Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Cassville Community Food Pantry volunteers assemble boxes for Barry County residents who are in the The Emergency Food Assistance Program. The pantry served 821 people who were in the program over July and August. Jason Johnston reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Pantry served more than 3,000 people in July, August

The Cassville Community Food Pantry had record numbers this summer, serving 3,194 people over July and August.

The pantry, which is in the Cassville United Methodist Church at 601 Gravel St., helped 662 families or 1,663 people in July. It also helped 634 families or 1,531 people in August.

Shane Harvey, 5, of Cassville, waits for more guidance before assembling a box at the Cassville Community Food Pantry. Harvey has volunteered at the pantry for two years, said Sharon Longley, Harvey's great-grandmother, of Cassville, during The Emergency Food Assistance Program distribution. Jason Johnston reporter@cassville-democrat.com

There has been a lot of demand this summer, said Janet Mills, pantry director.

"I think we are seeing a lot of new people, who've been displaced because of unemployment," she said.

Since area children were not in school over most of the summer, the demand increased for families who had children in the supplemental food programs in local schools, Mills said.

Mike Parsons Sr., right, of Cassville, gathers food at the Cassville Community Food Pantry. Jason Johnston reporter@cassville-democrat.com

"[Some] people can't make it," she said. "Their bills are high. The cost of food is high. To eat healthy is almost impossible. Even on an average budget, it is very hard to buy fresh produce and dairy products and meat. People eat carbs and things that are not healthy for them."

The pantry has been serving the public for 12 years, Mills said. It has a walk-in food pantry that is open from 9 to 11:15 a.m., Monday through Thursday. During that period, the pantry averages about 30 families each day, it helped 400 families or 1,137 people in July, and it helped 362 families or 1,002 people in August. Four to five volunteers help anyone who comes to the pantry during the walk-in days.

The pantry receives between 12,000-14,000 pounds of food each month from Ozarks Food Harvest, but those numbers also include federal commodities allocated to the pantry from Missouri agencies, she said.

In a typical month, the pantry purchases about 4,500 pounds from the Ozarks Food Harvest, Mills said. In August, the Missouri Department of Social Services allocated 6,000 pounds for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services allocated 3,500 pounds for the Senior Box Program (Commodity Supplemental Food Program) at the pantry.

The amount of food fluctuates each month for TEFAP. According to pantry documents, 145 families or 409 people, received TEFAP commodities in July, and 155 families, or 412 people, received TEFAP commodities in August.

The pantry distributes TEFAP boxes every fourth Tuesday, unless the day falls on a holiday or it has bad weather, in the back of the church at 6th and Townsend Streets from 3:30 to 5 p.m., or after an optional life skills class from 12:45 to 3 p.m. in the church's fellowship hall.

The pantry utilizes up to 30 volunteers to assemble the food boxes and check people in, Mills said. Current proof of address for all household members is required, and those receiving assistance must be residents of Barry County. The family must meet a low-income eligibility requirement to qualify for TEFAP.

The pantry receives 117 senior boxes each month and uses about 12 volunteers to distribute the senior boxes from 1 to 3 p.m. every Friday after the third Monday of each month. Those boxes are already preassembled from the Ozarks Food Harvest. The local senior program is for Barry County residents who are at least 60 years old, and it also requires pre-certification and verification of income.

The pantry requires food all year around and not just during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, Mills said. The pantry does get a lot of community support.

"That's what keeps us going," she said. "That's why we are successful is people do care and do support us. They can also help us by volunteering.

"We are always begging for volunteers. I do think we do a much better job if we have enough helpers."

The Cassville Walmart donates food (bakery items, deli, produce and meat) three times a week to the pantry, Mills said.

Mercy Hospital and the Mercy Clinic in Cassville donated more than 2,794 pounds of food to the pantry over a six-week period that ended Aug. 14, said Emily Jackson, an administrative assistant at the Cassville hospital. Mercy donated $558.90 to the pantry on Tuesday, which was equivalent to 20 cents per pound.

All monetary donations go toward food, Mills said. The Cassville United Methodist Church covers the administration costs of running the pantry and provides volunteers at the pantry.

St. Edwards Catholic Church, located at 105 W. 17th St., partners with the pantry. It does ongoing food drives and provides volunteers at the pantry.

Holy Cross Lutheran Church, located at 305 W 7th St., supports the pantry with many food drives.

"A lot of people this summer have donated from their garden," she said. "People brought in eggs from their chicken output."

The pantry also accepts toiletries and diapers because people cannot use food stamps to purchase those items, Mills said.

For more information about commodity programs, how to donate or volunteer opportunities, people may call Mills at 417-847-2328 or visit the pantry at 7th and Gravel Streets.

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