Jason Mitchell, executive director of Emmaus Mission Center, expressed concern after discussing the increase in the amount of food going out the doors at 19 W. Richardville.

“It feels like we’re running out of room with the new building,” he said.

“I’m thankful we have the new pantry. If we were still in the old one, I’m not sure we would have had capacity.”

Between March and April 2020, the center was distributing 550 orders of food per month, he said. But when the pandemic was in full swing, “there was a rush of people who were trying to figure out what was going on. People were laid off and couldn’t find a job.”

So, the pantry upped the number of times people could get food. At a minimum, there have been 1,000 food orders each month. On average, Mitchell said, Emmaus has seen approximately 2,160 families receive assistance.

“It was a huge leap to push that much food,” he said, qualifying his comment by adding that “we haven’t seen the struggle some places have because we have support through area businesses and individuals.”

In fact, along with donating more than 250,000 pounds of protein to Emmaus this last year, Tyson Foods has donated more food during the past 12 months than ever in its 85-year history. The company donated a record 30 million pounds of protein, equivalent to 120 million meals, this year to fight hunger, according to a news release. The donations were part of nearly $75 million invested to support its team members and critical needs in local communities where the company operates in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mitchell said due to the many generous donations, the food supply has not run out with the exception of dairy boxes. But the group is currently working toward acquiring a grant funded by the USDA and made available through Purdue Extension and Prairie Farms for the purchase of more boxes.

Such grants have helped in the past, and the boxes lasted a few months. However, Emmaus is currently lacking in butter, milk, and sour cream, along with other dairy products. With the new grant monies, Mitchell hopes to purchase more of these items, which should be available by early next month, he said.

Along with Tyson and the USDA grant, Emmaus receives support from the Humanitarian Distribution Center in Francesville, Food Finders of Lafayette, Midwest Food Bank of Indianapolis, and local stores including Walmart, Aldi, Ruler Foods, Big Lots, and Little Ceasars Pizza.

“Volunteers and donors have been critical,” said Mitchell. “People caring about other people is what makes this work. And we are so thankful for the volunteers and donors because without them, this wouldn’t work.”

May Stover of Royal Center United Methodist Church’s food pantry shared Mitchell’s sentiments.

“We have been blessed with a lot of donations,” she said, “but boxed dinners for children and paper products would be helpful.”

The pantry is in need of items such as cereal and non-perishable microwaveable meals that would be easy for children to prepare, such as macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, ravioli, and the like. Paper products including paper towels, toilet paper, and tissues are needed, as is soap.

“Many people don’t donate soap, but we have a need for it,” Stover said, explaining that the pantry “has been busy since the virus.”

On Tuesday, Tyson donated its monthly supply of chicken products to the pantry. And Stover asks people to call (574) 725-5368 during regular business hours when they need something from the pantry at 210 S. Chicago St., Royal Center. A representative will meet people at the site for distribution. The “appointment-style setting” helps maintain social distancing requirements, she explained.

As for the food pantry that serves the Lewis Cass Schools district, families in that community may visit the CARE (Christ’s Arms Reach Everyone) Food Pantry housed at Walton Christian Church, 103 Bishop St., between 4 and 6 p.m. every third Tuesday of the month. Items are available by appointment if those hours do not fit into a person’s schedule. Just call the church at (574) 626-2320, said Jeanne Scott, who serves at the pantry with Cathy McQuiston.

“People get food stamps and assistance at the first of the month, so we wanted to be able to help at the end of the month,” Scott explained, saying she has not noticed an increase in the number of people visiting the pantry.

However, she does know the need is out there.

Through monetary donations that come in from churches and businesses in Walton and Galveston as well as individual donors, she and McQuiston purchase various items for the pantry. Monetary donations also help support the voucher program.

Both the Walton MaraMart/Marathon Gas Station in Walton and Fast Lane Food in Galveston honor vouchers that people may use to get milk, eggs, and bread. Then, the pantry pays for the items once the vouchers are submitted.

Scott also said people may donate non-perishables like jelly, peanut butter, spaghetti and sauce, soups, macaroni and cheese, Hamburger Helper, or any other items they think people may need. “We always take anything. We have two shelves of miscellaneous items, but monetary donations help us to stock what’s not donated and to pay for the vouchers.”

This last year, Lewis Cass students helped, she said. The FFA group did a food drive that benefitted local families in the fall and the Junior High Student Council donated items to be used in Thanksgiving baskets that were given to families in need.

“God has blessed our pantry,” Scott said, extending her thanks to the community. “This is neighbors helping neighbors.”

Need food?

Food Finders Mobile Food Pantry will be distributing food in a drive-through format. Clients are to remain in their cars and are asked to arrive no earlier than 2 p.m.

When: 2 p.m. -3:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25.

Where: Hillcrest Baptist Church, 2110 N. 3rd St., Logansport.

Requirements: Must meet income guidelines.

More information: Call Alex Buckles at (765) 471-0062.

Reach Kristi Hileman at kristi.hileman@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5150

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