Beyond the Pantry Shelves

FPC Members Respond to food insecurity

Located on the lower level of First Presbyterian’s Poplar Street building, a ministry dedicated to feeding hungry neighbors in our community has operated for 39 years. The Loaves and Fishes Pantry at FPC is run almost exclusively by 85 volunteers, with a bit of help from FPC staff. Volunteers stock the shelves, receive warehouse deliveries, weigh in donations, and assist nearly 300 families per month.

This year, the Loaves and Fishes network has served a record number of hungry neighbors in our community; meanwhile, this year also saw a significant reduction in food donations throughout the county.

“Luckily, at First Presbyterian Church, we have some very generous people who have organized food collections for us.” Diane Carey, Ministry Team Leader for Loaves and Fishes, shared. “In November, three food drives were hosted by Dan and Martha Ogburn, Robbie Kirk, and Trinity Episcopal School. In addition, many people donate food individually, bringing it to the pantry or dropping it off anonymously at the church.”

FPC member Dan Ogburn explained how he and his wife Martha encouraged their neighbors to get involved. “There are 60 homes in our neighborhood, so we put a flyer in each mailbox, had one posted at the entrance, and had an announcement in the community newsletter. Forty of the 60 homes contributed! We were so proud of our neighbors’ thoughtfulness and generosity and delighted to deliver the food – in two trips of my fully-loaded truck – to our church’s food pantry, which was out the door busy both times!”

For some, collecting goods is a family affair. With his children’s help, Robbie Kirk delivered a collection gathered from his place of employment, STV, Inc. Smiling ear to ear, the children proudly unloaded the food on a Wednesday night before choir practice. Firsthand experience like this can help kids develop empathy, compassion, and an understanding of the impact of their actions on others.

At Trinity Episcopal School, Lindsey Peery coordinates food drives for the students and their families to participate in. “In last year’s food drive, we collected over 500 pounds. Our goal is 700 pounds this year!” She exclaimed.

Lindsey shared that the students love helping stock the pantry, and after blessing the collection in chapel on a Friday morning last month, a group of students and chaperones arrived to deliver the food and stock the shelves. After the final weigh-in, they collected 834 pounds – well beyond their goal.

Diane revealed that, “Without donations like these, our pantry would be very short on food to fill our customers’ shopping carts.” Between inflated food costs and the end of the SNAP program, the need for food is higher than ever.

Anyone can make a positive impact with little time or effort, even if you’ve never done it before. “Folks stand in long lines waiting to shop at our pantry. Truthfully, we were a little surprised at how easy it was to collect and donate the food relative to its significant impact on these neighbors,” Dan admitted. “First Presbyterian goes out of its way to make volunteering like this an easy path to follow – the path that our faith calls us to follow.”

Learn more about this ministry on our Local Outreach webpage:

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