HAZARD — Volunteers at the emergency food pantry at the New Hope church in Hazard have been more than busy since last fall when the church offered its services to distribute commodities to Perry Countians every month.
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) is a federally funded program that works to improve the health of low-income individuals and families by offering free, nutritious food for those people.
Michael Barnett, pastor at New Hope, said the church receives the commodities from God’s Pantry in Lexington every month. Until April, the church had only been offering pick up of the food once a month, but since space to store the food is limited and the number of families is growing, Barnett decided it would be better to have the food distribution twice a month, every other Tuesday.
“What we did was we kind of split the alphabet. Those people whose name starts with A-I come the first Tuesday and everybody else comes the next,” Barnett explained. “This is the first month we’ve done it that way.”
Barnett said God’s Pantry approached him last fall, asking if the church would take over the distribution.
“I said we’re really pretty busy already. He said here’s where we’re at, if you don’t agree to do it then nobody in Perry County is going to get commodities. Well, when you put it like that,” he said.
The church’s emergency food pantry, which has been providing food to families in need for a few years already Barnett said, went from serving about 100 families a month to over 400 families a month. Handling the influx of families every weekday proved to be too much for the church’s volunteers and their storage capabilities.
“We’ve got 10 freezers over there right now, one commercial one and nine you’d have in like your house. Last time the trucks came, the freezers were so full we had to borrow some freezer space from some local area businesses,” Barnett said.
Barnett said it was for these reasons that the church decided to only have distribution two days a month, when the trucks actually come to drop the food off. This way, things are easier for the church and there are no storage crises.
“We did 176 families on April 9, which was the first time we did it that way. I predicted we’d get 225 families today,” he said.
According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, to qualify for commodities the average annual income for a household of two must be less than $15,510.
Distribution has gone smoothly so far, Barnett said, since the church already has experience with food giveaways and pantries, however there is one thing the volunteers could use.
“You don’t have to come to New Hope, this is not a New Hope church thing. The commodities is furnished by the U.S. government,” he said. “Some of these folks (getting food) are elderly, some of these folks have disabilities, and what we need are some younger, healthy guys and gals that can help them over to their car with their boxes.”