TUPELO – Many food pantries, including the Salvation Army, receive financial help from organizations like the United Way or the Hunger Action Program of the Presbyterian Church USA.
Most of the money to feed the poor, however, comes from fundraisers and private donations.
USDA food is a major staple of what the pantries give the poor. It’s federally subsidized, and state agencies give it freely to participating pantries, but lately the choices have been limited and with donations to non-profits down it’s hard for them to afford supplemental food.
Cliff Pickens, who heads the food pantry at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Tupelo, said there were only three vegetable options on his latest invoice from the USDA.
Emily Patterson, who heads the food FAITH Food Pantry in Nettleton, said the same thing. Like other pantries, FAITH and St. Luke purchase whatever additional food they need from the Mid-South Food Bank in Memphis, but that food costs 14 cents per pound plus shipping.
Some pantries are now getting additional help from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – the federal economic stimulus legislation.
Patterson said the extra money has allowed them to add fresh milk to the food they give residents in Monroe County, but they’re still waiting on the money to come through for Lee County residents.
Major Sue Dorman of the Salvation Army said they’ll also be receiving ARRA money, but it must be spent on food and upkeep for residents in the transient lodge. That doesn’t help with the Army’s feeding of 100 families per month through their food pantry, or the 4-6,000 meals they serve each month in the soup kitchen.
Susan Gilbert, director of social services at the Salvation Army said this is the lowest she’s seen the vegetable stocks in the pantry in the nine years she’s been there.
“We’ll even go out and pick extra produce from people’s gardens,” said Gilbert.
“We really need vegetables – corn, black-eyed peas, green-beans,” she said. “We’ll take it all.”
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Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal