Food Pantry looking for help

Published 12:01 am Friday, March 14, 2008

NATCHEZ — The Food Pantry is in desperate need of a sponsor.

For the past year and a half, the United Way has been running the Food Pantry and the agency is looking to spin it off to someone else.

“Right now it’s draining our United Way resources, but not severely,” said Mike Gemmell, chairman of United Way Board.

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United Way is not set up to maintain these types of organizations, only to support them.

But the news isn’t reason for panic, Gemmell said. The United Way hopes to transition the food bank to another agency by June 1, but if there isn’t a sponsor by then, they’ll keep looking.

“If I closed it, I couldn’t live with myself,” Gemmell said.

United Way has planned to talk with the Ministerial Alliance March 24 about sponsorship.

Maria Bowser, past chair of United Way, said the Ministerial Alliance was a food bank partner in it from the Food Pantry’s beginning and is a viable option.

“I think it’s the most logical option,” Bowser said.

But any nonprofit organization could become a sponsor, Gemmell said.

Food Pantry Director Tommy Jackson said he is working on several grants right now, one of which would provide them with fresh vegetables and fruits.

Jackson is looking at this as a positive thing, an opportunity to expand, he said.

He said in their search to find a sponsor, or multiple sponsors, the pantry wants to be able to find enough support to expand to Jefferson, Franklin and Wilkinson counties.

“It’s a great service to Adams County,” Gemmell said. “People aren’t aware that Adams County is one of the most impoverished in the state.”

Saturday, Wal-Mart in Natchez is having a food drive for the pantry, and they hope to fill an entire 18-wheeler with food.

“If they filled it completely, it would be close to $250,000 worth of food,” Jackson said.

This would sustain the Food Pantry for four months. Cash donations are also accepted.

“For every $1 we can buy $20 worth of food,” Jackson said.

Gemmell said this is because Food Pantry purchases food from the Food Harvest in Mississippi, which gets their food from USDA.

The event will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Wal-Mart parking lot.