CORBIN — CORRECTION - published Dec. 14, 2013 - Due to a reporter’s error, a photo cutline that appeared on Page 1 of the Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, edition contained an error. It should have said Manuel Howard was loading food into a truck for Big Creek Missions.
By LeeAnn Cain / Staff Writer
Trucks are parked at an unassuming brick building at 1215 East 4th Street in London on a sunny Thursday afternoon. A forklift loads these vehicles with pallet of food – several tons of it, in fact.
God’s Pantry Food Bank’s London distribution center is up and running. The inside of the building is cold; the large garage door has to remain open to load the food. Though thousands of pounds of food already occupy the building, it is still mostly empty space.
Robert Baker and Manuel Howard from the Lexington distribution center were busy helping several missions load food, with Baker taking care of paperwork and Howard driving the forklift. God’s Pantry still needs London employees, so Baker and Howard are working at the distribution center for now.
According to Baker, the distribution center officially opened Monday, Dec. 2. Howard said in the nine days they’ve been open, more than 130,000 pounds of food has been distributed across the 12 counties the distribution center serves.
This new distribution center in London is meant to bring food to agencies in Bell, Clay, Harlan, Jackson, Knox, Laurel, Leslie, McCreary, Pulaski, Rockcastle, and Whitley counties. Howard said he was not sure of number of individual agencies, but so far 15 or 16 have received food from the London distribution center.
Big Creek Missions from Leslie County was one of the agencies picking up food Thursday. They had a black trailer bearing their name, and it was full. According to member Kevin Rogers, Big Creek holds a food pantry once a month, distributing food through local churches.
“It’s a huge blessing not to have to pay so much for the food,” Rogers said.
Agencies that get food through God’s Pantry do not have to pay for it, but according to Rogers they do have to occasionally pay a “processing fee” to help God’s Pantry transport the food.
“Fabulous place here. It helps a lot of people…a lot of people,” said Carolyn Lawson with the Lighthouse Mission Center of Bell County. Lawson said Lighthouse Mission Center was picking up its second load so far from this distribution center.
According to Lawson, Lighthouse Mission Center does two food giveaways per month, which serve 100-200 families. Many of those helped are elderly and on fixed incomes; according to Howard many of those who need food banks are the elderly who subsist on limited incomes.
First Baptist Church of Corbin picked up a load of food Wednesday. According to Lester Patterson, who works at First Baptist Church of Corbin’s food pantry, the church’s food pantry is open every Thursday and serves roughly 110 families every month. Patterson also said that First Baptist Church of Corbin had the first food pantry in the city.
Patterson believes having a distribution center in London will make things easier.
“We’re excited about it; we think it will work beautifully in the area,” Patterson said. “God’s Pantry is leaning in the right direction with what they’re trying to do.”
Howard said there are three types of food in the distribution center: donated product, co-op (purchased) product, and USDA commodities. God’s Pantry is a member agency of Feeding America, Howard said, and receives most of its food from national donations with Feeding America.
Food also comes in through individual church and local donations and local regional food producers, according to Howard. Local donations of non-food items such as charcoal and grills are accepted, but non-food donations are not solicited, Howard said. He went on to say that only a very small percentage of donations are non-food items.
“This 12,000 square-foot warehouse will receive weekly deliveries from our headquarters in Lexington. This new regional distribution center will be staffed by two part-time employees and will have regular hours of operation for the convenience of our agency partners, serving as the permanent pick-up point for agencies serving the Southeast Kentucky Region,” said Chief Operating Officer John Lancaster. “With ample refrigeration, God’s Pantry Food Bank will be able to get more fresh food, produce and other healthy options closer to the agencies and more convenient for their pick up.”
God’s Pantry Food Bank has served Kentucky families in need for more than 57 years. It began in Lexington, but has expanded to serve 50 counties of central and eastern Kentucky. According to External Relations Coordinator Rebecca Price, one out of seven people living in the service area, or more than 211,000 individuals, are served by God’s Pantry Food Bank.
“There are nearly 330,000 individuals living in central and eastern Kentucky who struggle every day to meet their basic needs, and still do not have access to enough healthy, life-sustaining food. There are pockets of the Food Bank’s 50 county service area that do not have any emergency food pantries at all, and in some places there are programs that exist but the need is greater than what they are able to provide,” CEO Marian Gunn said in a press release.
The funding for the distribution center is made possible largely through a Community Development Block Grant applied for by the City of London from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The grant came from the collaboration of the city of London, the Cumberland Valley Area Development District, the Governor’s Department for Local Government and God’s Pantry Food Bank.