By Amie Sites
---- — Emmaus Mission Center began using money to buy kid-friendly and nutritious food for its food pantry at 1203 College St., said Jason Mitchell, executive director of the mission center.
The food is being purchased with a $20,000 grant from Walmart. Emmaus won the grant after placing ninth out of 162 food centers nationwide in an online voting contest sponsored by Walmart.
The grant came from Walmart's Fighting Hunger Together initiative. The imitative awarded $40,000 to 40 food banks and $20,000 to 60 "partner feeding agencies." Emmaus was sponsored by the Food Finders Food Bank so the money was administered by the food bank as a credit for when Emmaus buys food from them.
With the money finally in place, Emmaus has been able to provide food to area children. This is the second month the food bags have been available. In the first month, 140 food bags were taken to the Cass County Farm View event, 40 were taken to Reading Railroad and 89 went out to the pantry, Mitchell said.
A week ago, high school swimmers from Logansport High School volunteered and put together about 205 bags to distribute. Items going into bags are peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, pudding cups, milk and other various items. Mitchell said they are planning to spend $1,700 per month.
"We're providing kid-friendly meals that have food kids will like but are also nutritious," Mitchell said. "We had some kids who were coming in and didn't have milk or were having cereal with water. We're providing milk."
Emmaus is looking for volunteers or groups to come in and help bag the food to distribute. Most of the food is being distributed through the food pantry, with possibly one event per month to give out, Mitchell said.
For example, there is a trunk or treat event in October, where Mitchell plans to distribute food to children, he said.
"It's going pretty well," Mitchell said.
Emmaus serves about 480 families, which is more than the 200 to 250 bags that are purchased. Mitchell said food bags distributed in the food pantry are limited throughout the month. A majority of the food will be available at the food pantry, but on a first-come first-served basis
Around Thanksgiving and Christmas the pantry will be purchasing some holiday food, Mitchell said. The mission is trying to make more bags so they are able to serve more families.
"$20,000 seems like a lot, but when you break it down for families, it's not going to feed everyone," Mitchell said. "It's not going to solve our hunger issue. We're hoping to receive similar support next year."
Those interested in volunteering to fill food bags or help at the food pantry can call 574-739-0107. To inquire about the bags, call 574-753-3500 to see if the bags are in stock.
The food pantry is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.
Amie Sites is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her: @PharosAES.