Mobile food pantry feeding thousands in area
On a windy day in January, volunteers quickly exited their vehicles when the Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri mobile pantry pulled into the parking lot at 13007 Route C.
"No matter what the weather is — rain, snow, sunshine — we're here," said Gladys Moll, co-director for the Russellville drop-off.
Every second Tuesday of the month, Moll and more than a dozen volunteers unpack 8,000-10,000 pounds of free groceries for the community.
The Food Bank's mobile pantry distribution has been stopping in Russellville for more than 10 years.
Last week, 354 people received food at Russellville's Trinity Lutheran Church. Among items donated were 240 bags of oranges, 760 containers of tomatoes, 480 kale salad kits and 534 mini cookie containers.
Mobile pantries distribute in 32 Missouri counties including Cole, Moniteau, Miller and Morgan. Products come from the Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri, whose home base in Columbia stores millions of pounds of food.
As a Feeding America member, the Food Bank's donations are secured through manufacturers, restaurants, wholesalers and others, according to the Food Bank's website. They also send food to brick-and-mortar pantries like the Samaritan Center and Rape & Abuse Crisis Service in Jefferson City, the California Nutrition Center and Food For Morgan County Inc.
"We try to get as much nutritious and fresh food as possible on the mobile truck," Food Bank Agency Relations Coordinator Melissa Schulte said. "Sometimes, those are items those of limited income are unable to purchase."
The United Way of Central Missouri purchased the truck that serves Cole County in 2016. President Ann Bax said the need in the area beyond brick-and-mortar pantries needed to be addressed.
"Our food pantries are doing excellent work, but they were just at capacity," Bax said.
Now, the United Way's partnership with the Food Bank allows the truck to stop in Cole County six times a month to help fill that gap.
The St. Martins Catholic Church mobile stop is scheduled every fourth Wednesday. Central Bank employees, retired employees and their spouses operate the mobile pantry at that location.
Jefferson City locations include Capital West Christian Church, the Firley YMCA, Little Explorers Discovery Center and the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City.
Anyone with an ID, proof of residency and a Social Security card is served; however, no one is turned away.
Volunteers push shopping carts around the tables set up outside the truck. A family of four may receive four packs of chicken breasts and five bags of kale.
"We do get a lot of processed chicken nuggets," said mobile pantry client Carol Roark, who regularly shops for her family of four.
Some pick up for larger families or neighbors who can't leave the house.
"It's put on by a lot of people in our community," volunteer Malinda Penberthy said. "We couldn't make it work without a lot of help."
The schedule for the Cole County mobile food pantry can be found at sharefoodbringhope.org/events.