Mt. Vernon Register-News

January 18, 2013

Food pantries need community support

By RICK HAYES
rick.hayes@register-news.com

MT. VERNON — Donations to local food pantries typically decrease following the holidays, but officials at three pantry locations in Mt. Vernon have reported their shelves are stocked.

Pantries in Mt. Vernon are operated by Central Christian Church, Angels on Assignment and Park Avenue Baptist Church.

While donations and supplies appear to be steady, one of the pantries has a unique problem that has paralyzed the organization.

Park Avenue food pantry Coordinator Eddie Chrum said the organization is in need of a forklift after one that had been donated to the pantry has been taken back by its owner.

“A guy got us a forklift and his company let us use it, but he’s left the company, and they wanted it back,” Chrum said. The organization has another forklift, but it’s inoperable after officials discovered a hydraulic leak.

“In order to run this thing, we have to have a forklift that is operable,” Chrum said. “As of today [Wednesday] we’ll be without a forklift. That really hurt us. That is our main and immediate need right now.”

He added, “We’ve got food coming in from out of town and we don’t have enough manpower to move it by hand. It puts us at a standstill when we don’t have one {forklift].”

Chrum noted that donations are down slightly for the pantry at Park Avenue, which is expected after the holidays.

“There are certain items we don’t get after Christmas. We’re not getting any meat in at all. People seem to donate more when it’s Christmas time,” he said.

Randy Sells, administrative pastor at Central Christian Church, said donations there are in a holding pattern.

“We’re on a month-to-month supply,” Sells said. “After we do our next distribution, we put out an appeal and begin on the next month. We’re purchasing about 50 percent of our staples at a local supermarket and the rest are brought in through donations.”

Sells said with the recent report that the county has a 17.6 poverty rate “it only shows there is more of a need” to provide food to community members. Central provides about a week’s meal for about 85 to 100 families per month, Sells reported.

Sells noted church leaders have expressed a desire to expand its operation due to space limitations, and are working on a plan for a new building.

John Hicks, who oversees the Angels on Assignment food pantry that is a ministry of the First United Methodist Church, claims that even with federal cutbacks from the United States Department of Agriculture, the local pantry is able to continue serving local citizens.

“We seem to be doing all right because we get steady donations,” Hicks said. “One thing that helps is we get donations from smaller churches that can’t support their own food pantry.”

Hicks said the organization gets some food donations from the USDA and three local pantries share commodities offered through the Midwest Food Bank in Bloomington.

“We get those supplies the first Thursday of the month, but we never know what we’re getting. Those supplies give us a lot of extras that we don’t count on every month,” Hicks said.

He added the organization also spends anywhere from $1,500 to $2,200 a month to buy food through the Illinois Food Bank.

“We get an order form and we just get whatever we think we might need,” he said.