On April 16, the New Hope Food Pantry in Hazard held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate where they received a new freezer and cooler that will help preserve and store more food for the community.
Michael Halligan, CEO of God’s Pantry Food Bank, said that through a grant with Feeding America, God’s Pantry Food Bank was able to provide a new freezer and cooler to the New Hope Food Pantry. God’s Pantry is also providing similar equipment for other counties, which will help get more perishable food items into the food supply and food chain across the state.
“Through the grant we’ve installed a freezer, we’ve installed a cooler and we’ve also provided $10,000 worth of financial support to stock the freezers and coolers,” said Halligan. “For this particular rural hunger grant, we provided seven different food pantries in seven different counties a freezer (and/or) cooler to help address those challenges.
“Rural hunger is one of the most challenging parts of dealing with those experiencing hunger and helping address food insecurity. Often times, it’s because of the difficulty of handling perishable foods,” said Halligan. The new equipment, he said, will help expand the amount of food the pantry can hold and make the process of getting fresh food easier on people in the county.
“It’s an opportunity for more fresh produce, meat protein, dairy items, all of the items people would typically find in a grocery store that aren’t as easy to distribute particularly in a rural community,” Halligan said.
The food pantries of the region, he said, are grateful for the support they have been given over the past year.
“One of the things that’s been a true blessing for God’s Pantry Food Bank, for the New Hope Center and for so many more is the generosity we’ve seen from donors, from the federal government, helping us secure food that has been very difficult to obtain otherwise. These freezers and coolers help us make sure it remains safe, it remains wholesome and it allows us to quickly get that product into the hands and kitchens of people who are experiencing hunger,” said Halligan. “Imagine a child who has a peanut butter sandwich and doesn’t have a cold glass of milk to go with that peanut butter sandwich. That’s why these freezers and coolers are so important, so that someone has a complete meal and they’ve got a product that is fresh and cold.”
Officials with the New Hope Church and Food Pantry said they are appreciative of the new equipment and what it will allow them to accomplish for the families in Hazard and Perry County.
“The donations that come to the food pantry as far as food stuff aren’t always consistent; we might get a lot of dairy one week and a lot of produce another week. Having this additional storage space will help us be able to receive it when it comes in and preserve it so it’s useful when we distribute it. It evens out the bumps in the supply chain,” said New Hope Church Pastor John Kidwell. “We’re blessed. I think God provides what he wants to do and the resources that have come together to enable us to do this.”
Bruce Estep, director of the New Hope Food Pantry, agreed.
“It gives us more storage, it gives us more accessibility, it makes it more efficient when we build the boxes. It’s been amazing, it’s been a God-send,” said Estep.
Each Tuesday, the New Hope Food Pantry distributes food boxes to Perry County residents. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, pantry officials said, there was an increase in the number of families seeking that additional assistance.
“We saw an increase in the early stages of the pandemic and it’s been a little bit up and down with the stimulus checks and additional unemployment benefits and other programs that came in, but overall there was an increase,” said Kidwell.
“We’ve seen an increase in people within the last year. As far as new ones, probably about a 20 percent increase in new clients,” said Estep. “People come and sit in line for three or four hours to get that box of food, and they continue to come back,” he said, adding that to the people coming, the extra help with food is a tremendous help.”
To donate to the New Hope Food Pantry, call, (606) 439-5116.