‘Is all this food free and can anyone come get it?’

Published 4:32 pm Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Groceries waiting to be delivered to Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry’s food pantry. TBOM’s Feed-a-Kid program volunteers prepare 320 food bags and deliver them to the schools each week for nutritionally at-risk children. (photo submitted by Jason Eller)

TBOM seeks support for Feed-A-Kid, food pantry

Recently a group of elementary school children visited and toured Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry (TBOM) to learn about the many programs TBOM offers to the community.

TBOM Client Services Coordinator Michelle Reedy tells of that visit and how a little girl’s raised hand melted hearts.

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“While learning about how Outreach helps families with food, a little girl raised her hand and asked, ‘Is all this food free and can anyone come to get food?’

“I told her yes, it is free to those that need it. Once again the little girl raised her hand and stated in a small voice, ‘I don’t have any food in my home. My mom buys groceries, but it isn’t enough to feed us. Can we come here?’

“My answer, of course, was absolutely,” Reedy said.

Reedy said after the tour ended, she spoke with the teacher about the little girl and asked the school to inform the family about the food pantry and the Feed-A-Kid Program at TBOM.

“It is for this reason that Outreach exists,” said Carol Newton, executive director of TBOM. “It is through programs such as the food pantry and Feed-A-Kid that we live out our mission to provide compassionate assistance to Polk County residents who do not have the resources to provide for their basic life needs.”

Feed-A-Kid food bags are assembled and distributed by the food pantry and its volunteers on a weekly basis to seven Polk County schools that have identified a nutritionally at-risk child and/or family. The food is intended to last throughout the weekend for each at-risk child.

“Volunteers pack 320 food bags and deliver them to the schools each week during the school year,” said Jim McClintock, food pantry coordinator for Outreach.

Care is taken to help protect the identity of the children receiving the food bags. School officials at each school receive the food bags from Outreach and place the bags in the child’s locker during class hours to maintain confidentiality.

The typical Feed-A-Kid bag contains pasta, fruit cups, cereal, assorted snack items, vegetables and protein such as canned tuna or chicken to help round out the bag nutritionally. Each bag weighs no more than 5-7 pounds in order for the child to carry it in a backpack.

“This school year, 53 percent of Polk County school children receive free or reduced lunch. So, whenever possible, additional food is added to the bag to help prevent or reduce hunger among all family members,” said Newton.

Outreach food is donated by the community, purchased at a significantly reduced rate from Manna Food Bank, and at sale prices from area grocery stores.

“Outreach spends approximately $2,500 per month on food. This does not include the cost to operate the facilities, such as electricity, refrigeration or manpower, which are all needed to operate our programs,” Newton said.

To learn more about the Feed-A-Kid Program and other programs at Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry, visit online at www.tboutreach.org or contact TBOM at 828-894-2988.

– article submitted by Jason Eller