When a GraceWorks staff member arrived at 6:15 a.m. last Saturday for a Mobile Food Pantry distribution, he found three cars already waiting.
Food distribution wasn’t scheduled to start for almost two hours.
Hunger is real in Williamson County. Approximately 7%, or 14,450 Williamson County residents lack consistent access to food (Feeding America). Over the summer, hunger is a serious threat. As children are home from school, demands on a household food budget are stretched thin.
“We have many families choosing to sacrifice their food budget because it is one of the few living expenses they can control,” said Bobbie Jo Tackett, a Mobile Food Pantry volunteer. “It is very sad to see people choosing to do without food in order to meet the basic expenses of living.”
GraceWorks increases access to food with many programs, but over the summer, we increase our mobile pantries – four-hour events when we bring food to people where they live.
To make a mobile pantry happen, GraceWorks obtains a space, recruits volunteers, and looks for sponsors to pay $2,500 for a truckload of food from Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee.
On the day, a semi-trailer full of food pulls up at the site. Eighty to 100 volunteers help unload, set up tables and sort food items. Families line up in their cars. Volunteers fill shopping carts and offer curbside services to help families load their groceries. In three to four hours, 150-250 families go home with a trunk full of food! In 2017, eight Mobile Food Pantries throughout Williamson County served 4,172 people.
Last Saturday, cars filled with mothers eager to fill their pantries for their children, elderly couples on tight incomes, and people who came seeking to help their neighbors, lined the long winding driveway to Fairview Middle School waiting for food.
“One woman came for food for two elderly families in her church that were shut-ins,” Fairview volunteer Scott Lucas said. “She didn’t want anything for herself, but she got a little food for her son who is homeless.”
At an earlier mobile pantry in College Grove, a retired nurse and her husband came for food. They live on a small farm. As they get older, her health is deteriorating and they are finding it more difficult to survive financially, Tackett said. “She expressed … her appreciation for the abundance of food which would enable her and her husband to have a little less stress in their lives in the coming week,” Tackett said.
At Mobile Food Pantries, trunks full of food go out into communities that are food insecure. This means shut-ins are fed, homeless aren’t left hungry, seniors get meals for the week, moms can stock their pantries that night, and these families can experience a little relief.
—by Kathi McClure