The Ally: December 2020 – Jim Long

Jim Long
Director
F.A.I.T.H. Food Pantry

F.A.I.T.H. FOOD PANTRY

Many of us think of poverty as a “city problem.” We see movies with people in rags living in boxes in alleys, huddled against the cold. We think of beggars and panhandlers. We think of people far away.

The truth is far crueler. Poverty is with us in Northeast Mississippi. And with the COVID pandemic, the poverty rate is on the rise. People below the poverty line often do not know that they can get help. These are people who have no food in the house by the end of the month, not even a can of beans.

F.A.I.T.H. Food Pantry is working to change all this. The Food Pantry was running smoothly before the pandemic. We were averaging 100 to 140 volunteers each third Saturday, distributing an average of 65,000 pounds of food to 800 families for an average of 80 pounds of food per family. The pandemic arrived, and everything changed.

Many of the older volunteers who helped with food distribution didn’t feel comfortable returning. Many had health problems or had spouses with health problems. We thought the pandemic would be a short-lived thing at the time, so we decided to close the food pantry for a month or so, then resume normal operations.

Once the COVID virus took hold, many of our clients lost their jobs, and our work at the Pantry became more critical than ever. We had to find a way to open up quickly. Jason Martin of the Hunger Coalition stepped up to help us streamline our systems.

Like many organizations, we had to pivot rapidly. Our team devised a drive through allocation program that worked well. Anyone that was eligible received food. We bought tablets to be used in the parking to qualify families as they drove up, cutting down on paperwork to get our community fed.

Although we have had fewer volunteers and a much greater workload, we have been fortunate to be able to keep providing food for many during this challenging year. We’re grateful to Kay Patterson, Rebecca Nelson, Jason Martin, and all of our volunteers for keeping us going.

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