A mobile food pantry is on its way to Sampson County, a service that will bring food to a set location every month to help combat “food insecurity” — a problem officials say affects about 20 percent of Sampsonians.
The Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina, a division of Action Pathways, recently received a grant that it is using to launch a new mobile food pantry initiative. Action Pathways supports clients by helping them achieve employment, education and financial success and encompasses Sampson and seven other counties as part of that mission.
Combating hunger through the food bank is a primary goal.
“One in five Sampson County residents face food insecurity at some point during the year,” said Jim Thomas, director of the Second Harvest Food Bank. “They don’t know where their next meal is coming from and they have to make decisions between rent, medication, keeping the lights on and feeding themselves.”
He called that situation “unacceptable.”
“We are trying to combat that,” Thomas said.
The Second Harvest Food Bank has distributed over a million pounds of food in Sampson and the goal is to grow that effort, Thomas said. The food bank has received funding through a grant to provide eight mobile food pantries in Sampson through July 2017, with the first set for “October or November,” Thomas said.
He said the mobile food pantry initiative will provide eight such mobile units toward preventing those tough decisions from arising. A mobile food pantry is a distribution of food that comes loaded on one of the trucks — in this case, 10,000 pounds to the truckload, enough to feed 200 households — meaning an organization does not have to store food.
The mobile pantries will be provided once a month.
“We are looking to build a county coalition of volunteers, civic organizations and nonprofits to make this opportunity a reality,” Thomas said.
A meeting will be held at the end of this month to explain the program and what potential resources would be available, as well as the commitment needed from community groups to make the endeavor a successful one. That meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, July 28, at the County Auditorium in the County Complex.
“Our goal is to bring in groups that can help as volunteers,” said Thomas, noting about 10-15 needed. “Our goal is to build a solid base of volunteers.”
The truck would arrive 30-45 minutes prior to distribution at a location, which could be at a parking lot or any open space with adequate lighting.
Volunteers would help assemble the product from the truck into 40-60 pound food boxes that individuals from the community would receive.
Thomas said he hopes to determine the date and location of the mobile food pantries during the July 28 meeting. The plan is to have them at a regular location at the same time each month. The hope is also to build a partnership by which the mobile food delivery can extend past next summer.
“We are hoping to attract community organizations to help fund this mobile food pantry after the first year of grant funding expires,” said Thomas. “It costs between $7,500 and $9,000 a year to support a mobile food pantry. In creating a coalition of community organizations, we hope to attract a group capable of carrying this much needed resource in the years to come.”
“This would provide an additional resource that would not be here otherwise,” Thomas concluded.
For more information, Jim Thomas can be reached at 910-485-6923 ext. 4512.
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