• 84°

Food pantry works to meet a growing need

On most days, there’s not a car in sight at the Christian Outreach Alliance Food Pantry, but on Thursdays, there’s almost nowhere to park.

That’s because a number of volunteers are there to serve hundreds of people in the community with food that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.

“We’ve been doing this since 1995, and we are the only organization that I know of that gives on a regular basis,” said COA board member and volunteer Nancy Bennett. “We’re open every Thursday with the exception of Thanksgiving.”

The Alliance is an all-volunteer organization that currently gas about 37 volunteers.

“We have volunteers that come on Wednesday, and then we have volunteers that come on Thursday and interview clients, pull the applications and hand out the bags,” Bennett said. “We couldn’t do this without the volunteers. The program would not run if were it not for the volunteers.”

Bennett said they serve on average 150 to 160 people a week, though numbers have been as high as 468 in a two-hour period.

“Each person that comes through gets 8.5 pounds every time they come,” Bennett said. “Then if we have extras, like the fresh produce that we buy.”

Each person receives 8.5 pounds of food each time they come through, and they are allowed to come twice a month, with the exception of June, July and August when children are out for the summer. During those months, the Alliance works to be able to provide those families with food three times each month.

The 8.5 pounds includes dried products, like rice or beans, etc. and canned goods.

“Last week, we had 10 new people sign up. This week, we’ve already had 11 new people sign up,” Bennett said. “We are really meeting a need. … The majority of our clients, if you count numbers in a household, are the elderly and those under the age of 18.”

Bennett said the volunteers that help on Wednesdays and Thursdays are a blessing to the people of the community, and she hopes that even more people will see the need and sign up to volunteer their time to serve.

“You’ve got to be willing to give back to your community. We all have to dig in to make it a better place,” Bennett said. “We could not operate without the volunteers. They are a critical part of our operations and they always have been.”

The Alliance is located at 700 J. L. Chestnut Blvd. Clients must meet certain requirements to be eligible for the services.  Anyone wanting to volunteer or sponsor a food or donation drive can call them at (334) 872-6904 or email COAFoodPantry@gmail.com. The Alliance is a 501c3. Donations can be made to PO Box 2141 Selma, AL 36702-2141.