The Disciples Mission Food Pantry helps an average of 1,872 people each month with food and other items. But it has faced one food crisis after another in recent weeks.
As it currently promotes its annual Holiday Harvest Funds and Food Drive, executive director Sherwood “Woody” Smith says he is praying and asking for help.
“Financial contributions have been down, and the number of people desiring assistance is up,” said Smith, a pastoral associate at the church.
Smith has operated the pantry for 14 of its 21 years of existence. He said he has rarely seen it in worse shape and attributes the decline to the economy. More people are facing financial hardships, which has increased demand, he said. In each of the past two years, the pantry reports distributing a quarter of a million pounds of food to disadvantaged county residents.
“We’ve had so many families come in,” Smith said. “The commonality of their statements is: ‘I never thought that this would happen to me.’ Frankly, they’ve never done it before, they don’t know what they’re doing, don’t know how to handle it, and they’re totally embarrassed by it.”
The pantry’s coordinators say they have made a valiant effort to do more with less, but they now find themselves scraping the bottom of the barrel. Donations are just not keeping up with the demand, according to the church.
Often a place where families go when they have nowhere else to turn, the pantry at the church is open from 9 a.m. to noon Monday and Saturday. Recipients are county residents who are asked to bring a photo I.D. as well as a social security number for those who will benefit from the food.
About 30 volunteers shop for food, pick up donations, stock the pantry, register and assist clients, and pack their grocery bags for food, which is typically enough to last five days for a small family.
The small church of just over 100 members receives much of its financial and food donations from the congregation, sister churches and area grocery stores, as well as a couple of anonymous donors. It purchases most of its food items from the Atlanta Community Food Bank at about 16 cents per pound.
So far this year, the pantry has reportedly distributed more than 245,000 pounds of food to help feed more than 20,800 individuals.
Because of the economy, our church finances are not doing well at all,” said Patricia Kern, church outreach committee chairwoman. “So the church supports the food pantry as best we can. But we’re struggling in both areas.”
Smith said a donation of just $2 would allow the pantry to purchase 12 to 20 pounds of food, which along with other food, can feed a mother and two children or elderly couple.
“If we don’t get more financial funding, I’m not sure the food pantry can continue,” he said. “If we give up less food to each individual family, it’s hitting a point of no return. When does it get to a point where you’re not giving out enough food to make it worthwhile for the families to come?”
Donations of nonperishable food items may be dropped off at the church in the morning after 9 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Checks may be made payable to: Disciples Mission Food Pantry. The church is located at 569 Frasier St. SE, just off Fairground Street SE in Marietta.
For more information on donating or volunteering, call (770) 428-3125 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.