How to Access, How to Help

p o food pickup
Postal carriers collected bags of food in 2015 for the South County food pantry.

By Kaye Bennett

Most of us assume that two types of people are interested in food pantries: those who need food and those who want to donate or volunteer. But there can be quite a bit of overlap between the two.

As people’s lives change, they may migrate between the groups, says Drew Johnson, SCCS’s emergency assistance coordinator. He notes that one former SCCS volunteer now is a pantry client, while other clients want to give back, and do so by volunteering at the center. “We work to help people realize that there’s no shame in getting help, and it’s OK to give help,” he says. Deb Josephson, L&F services coordinator, agrees, “People who use food pantries are a cross section of the community. They’re our neighbors.”

How to Access South County’s Food Pantry:

• Call Loaves and Fishes at 343-3663 between 9 a.m. and noon. (Hint: the best time is 10-10:30 a.m.)

• If that line is closed, call L&F’s main line at 269-488-2617; tell them you are from South County and you need food.

• If that doesn’t work and you can’t wait till the next day, call SCCS directly around 12:30 (Monday through Thursday) and request an emergency pantry.

Hints for Helping:

• Johnson says, “Think about the foods you and your family like to eat. I wouldn’t want dried beans all the time and neither do clients.” Condiments and healthy snacks like raisins and granola bars are always needed. Based on my own experiment, in which I longed for ketchup for my hamburger, I bought 27 bottles of ketchup – on sale at Family Fare that day – and donated them to the pantry.

• Food drives during the holidays and the postal drive in May keep pantries well stocked at those times, but there are empty shelves waiting for your donations in other months, especially February through April and summer through October.

• Note the expiration or best-by dates on items you donate. Food pantries can use items up to one year past the best-by date, but items older than that need to be discarded.

• In addition to food, the SCCS pantry can also give clients a bag of household items once each quarter. These bags include dish soap, toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste and other necessities. Check the SCCS website for a complete list of items you can donate for these bags.

• Johnson is happy to talk with you about creative ways individuals or groups can donate. For example, churches and businesses often have “micro” food drives, and the Vicksburg District Library recently granted amnesty for fines to users who brought in food for the pantry. Some local people have found that even if they only need one, they take advantage of a market’s two- or three-for-one sales and bring extra items to the pantry. When people host parties but don’t want guests to bring gifts, they may suggest that guests instead bring a non-perishable food item; the “gifts” are then donated to SCCS.

To learn more about how to donate or how to volunteer at SCCS’s food pantry, check southcountycs.com, or call Drew Johnson at 269-649-2901.

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