Area food pantries see little increase

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 28, 2010

VIDALIA — Linda Bonnette has spent the past three months waiting for a storm that has yet to happen.

Bonnette, director of the Feed the Hungry food distribution program sponsored by Vidalia First Assembly of God, said after the closing of the Natchez Food Pantry on March 31, she expected to see a large increase in the number of people Feed the Hungry served on a monthly basis, but Bonnette is surprised that increase hasn’t happened yet.

“Mainly what we have seen is people putting out feelers,” she said. “We have had a good number of people calling and asking about us, but most of them say they are going to try other ways before coming to us.”

Feed the Hungry has food distributions on the last Saturday of each month.

Rosie Seyfarth, bookkeeper at 61 South Church of Christ said the pantry at her church has also seen very little increase in the number of people it helps each week.

On average, Seyfarth said, the pantry is seeing an additional six to eight people a month. And of those people, she said very few say the Natchez Food Pantry previously served them.

“Not many of them tell us they are coming from there,” she said. “What we hear mostly is just comments about the economy in general.”

The church hands out food from 9 to 11 a.m. each Tuesday. Beneficiaries are screened through a process monitored by the Mississippi Food Network, which supplies the food to the pantry.

Church volunteers staff the 61 South Church of Christ pantry.

“Our church has budgeted for this program every year,” Seyfarth said. “It is one of the ministries that is important for us to do.”

Feed the Hungry is the only Louisiana-based food pantry that is allowed to serve the needy in two states, Bonnette said.

“When we set this up, we told the food bank in Alexandria that we are a closely connected area and that people in both states needed this service,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know we don’t differentiate between states.”

While neither Feed the Hungry of 61 South Church of Christ have seen the increase they expected, both churches know it could still happen. And if it does, both organizations say they will be ready.

“We’ve never turned anyone down, so far,” Bonnette said. “I think we can handle it. We don’t stock pile five or six months worth of food, but we have learned to go with what we have. God has never let us down. We have learned to rely on the knowledge that God will make a way someway.”

Seyfarth said through faith and the benevolence of the church and community, the pantry will remain stable.

“We aren’t having any problems,” she said. “We will make it work if the need rises.”

Pilgrim Baptist Church in Natchez has operated a food pantry since 2005 and serves approximately 300 families each month.

The pantry also purchases food and screen recipients through the Mississippi Food Network.

Food distributions at the church are 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. each Thursday.

Through the Mississippi Food Network local churches are able to have a screening procedure that prevents individuals from being served by multiple outlets to ensure the largest number of families are provided food.

The Natchez Food Pantry, which was run by Catholic Charities, sited a $17,000 deficit as the reason for closing. The pantry had an annual budget of $50,000, which covered the salary of a part-time director, labor and other overhead costs, Catholic Charities Director Martha Mitternight said in a previous report.

Before it closed, the pantry was serving 422 families each month.