Groups help restock canned food pantries, organizers say help needed year-round
by Laura Gaddy
Dec 10, 2013 | 2405 views |  0 comments | 71 71 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Anthony Smith sorts through canned goods donated at Interfaith Ministries in Anniston Tuesday afternoon.  (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Anthony Smith sorts through canned goods donated at Interfaith Ministries in Anniston Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Two local men carried a large open box bulging from the weight of canned goods inside it to a local charity Tuesday and laid it at the executive director’s feet.

The men, employees of Wade Chiropractic, were delivering cans of food to Interfaith Ministries of Calhoun County for a holiday food drive. Executive Director Martha Vandervoort said the donations will be divided, placed in gift bags and delivered on Christmas Day to some of the recipients of Meals on Wheels, a meal delivery program for people who are homebound.

“I’m glad that there is a program out there that helps them,” said Shawn Robinson, one of the two men who carried the boxes inside to Vandervoort.

She said the donation will be more than enough to help with the Interfaith’s Christmas Day food delivery program for Meals on Wheels recipient, noting the organization does not serve as a food bank and does not hand out food on a regular basis.

Wade Chiropractic, which has offices in Oxford and Jacksonville, is one of several Calhoun County groups finishing up food drives this month. Organizers of local food banks say such events are vital to fulfill their missions, but hunger will persist long after the food from the holiday drives is gone.

“Those food donations help, but they need to be continued,” said Adam Lowy, the executive director of the national nonprofit organization Move for Hunger.

Move for Hunger coordinates with moving companies and other entities to collect non-perishable food items that people who are moving might otherwise throw away. He said while holiday donations are a big help, they often don’t supply local food banks for more than a month.

“People are hungry year-round, and we need year-round support,” Lowy said.

He said that in Alabama alone there are 900,000 who are “food insecure,” a term used to describe people who have missed a meal because they did not have the money for food.

Local organizations, and businesses like Wade Chiropractic, find that the holidays are a good time to generate support.

“We know a lot of people like to help out, and we like to give them that opportunity,” Robinson said.

Conducting the drive for the third time this year, the chiropractic office collected about 300 items this season. It encouraged patients to give back by offering free adjustments for canned food donations.

“We just like to make a difference whether it be big or small,” Robinson said.

Heather Lamey, director of the Piedmont Benevolence Center, said her organization needs support from canned food drives. She said this year Piedmont elementary and high schools are conducting separate holiday food drives.

“It’s something that we have grown to count on,” Lamey said. “It helps us out for the beginning of the year when things are tight.”

The Jacksonville Professional Firefighters Association is also winding down its canned food drive. Today the association plans to drop several hundred non-perishable food items off at St. Lukes Episcopal Church.

Sometimes low-income people buy gifts for family members to the detriment of their own diet and the Jacksonville firefighters want to help keep people out of that position said David Bell, president of the association.

Wellborn High School students in grades seven through 11 are also wrapping up a canned food drive, but they’re not donating to an outside organization. Instead the high school is giving the food items to people in their own community, said teacher Nancy Haynes.

Playing on the release of Francis Lawrence’s film “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” the school's Abundant Life Christian Club organized the drive, made it a competition among grades and called it the “Stop the Hunger Games Campaign.”

The students collected about 2,000 non-perishable food items, which will be used to feed families and the elderly in the Wellborn community, Haynes said.

Haynes said families’ grocery bills increase at the holidays and some local families need help.

Maudine Holloway, executive director of Community Enabler Developer, said her organization is dependent on food drives.

“If we didn’t get the donations we would be in serious trouble,” Holloway said. “We have no funds for food at all.”

The organization, which operates a food bank, also helps supply other basic needs such as medical supplies and furniture, Holloway said. The group receives more food donations in November and early December than in any other time of year, she said.

Holloway tries to keep food kids can fix for themselves, like ingredients for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on hand. For the homeless, she keeps potted meats and small packages of macaroni and cheese.

But, by spring, it becomes difficult to keep peanut butter, grits and oats on the shelves, she said.

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.

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