By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – No matter how early he arrives, a line of people stands waiting for Cliff Pickens to unlock the food pantry’s doors each Thursday.
“We served 288 families in one morning last Thursday,” said Pickens, chairman of the St. Luke United Methodist Church food pantry’s board of directors.
Families who qualify can register to receive groceries once a month. Judith Windom, who regularly receives food from St. Luke’s food pantry, said typical items in her grocery bag include canned food, meat, biscuits and macaroni.
“It isn’t enough to last a whole month, but it helps,” the Tupelo woman said. “A struggling family will take anything they can get.”
Pickens said due to the response to natural disasters over the past few years, food pantries have experienced shortages. The pantry receives a list of available food from the USDA in Jackson and the MidSouth Food Bank in Memphis, and orders from the selection on a first-come, first-served basis. The pantry welcomes food donations, but prefers monetary contributions because the pantry can buy more food at discounted rates.
“Volunteers are always welcome to come help distribute food or unload shipments for the next week,” he said. “But we aren’t here to judge them. We are here to feed the hungry, as we were instructed to.”
St. Luke’s food pantry is located at the intersection of Eason and Veterans boulevards. Another Tupelo food pantry is available from First United Methodist Church at 314 S. Church St.
Headed by Bonnie Cisco, the church’s Helping Hands food pantry opens for service each Saturday, and serves around 150 families. Also drawing from the USDA and MidSouth food banks, Cisco reports that Helping Hands is suffering the same shortages as St. Luke’s.
“The economy is tough right now, so people don’t have as much to donate because they have to provide for their own families,” she said.
Cisco said the food pantry is open to any volunteer who wishes to lend a hand and a heart.