In 2011, Bob and Theresa Southard attended a meeting regarding food pantries. The Bass Memorial Church felt a need to try to meet some of the needs of the immediate community. Bob, Theresa, Tom, and Marquis Feese; Floyd Brown; and Rex and Janice Sistrunk worked to get a small elders’ room fixed up to house the pantry. A wall was moved, and they decided to open the fourth Sunday of the month to help provide food to cover three to four days at the end of the month, when households often lack money and food. Each month between 170 and 275 families were served. As requirements have changed, they currently serve about 130 families a month.
The USDA defines food security as access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. The defining characteristic of food insecurity is that, at times during the year, the food intake of household members is reduced, and their normal eating patterns are disrupted because the household lacks money and other resources for food.
Additionally, there are a lot of people who fall through the cracks. They are not eligible for food stamps, or they are only allotted a few dollars a month. Some of them do not have transportation. Many of the clients are elderly, or have cancer or other terminal illnesses.
USA Today, August 2014, did an article on Food Pantries in America: “‘The results are alarming,’ says Bob Aiken, chief executive officer of Feeding America. ‘It means that people in America have to make trade-offs. They have to pick between buying food for their children or paying for utilities, rent, and medicine.’ One in seven Americans — 46 million people — rely on food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families, the study found.
“‘Hunger exists in literally every county in America,’ Aiken says. ‘It’s an urban problem, it’s a suburban problem, and it’s a rural problem.’”
Thirty-four percent of Mississippi children live in poverty. Many elderly people are also in dire straits. The rural areas are stricken. Lamar County has approximately 7,903 persons living in poverty. Parents may be working, but their salaries are often too low to provide everything a family needs. Many families run out of food and money before the month ends. By providing food to keep the family going for a few extra days at the end of the month, Bass Memorial members are helping to build the families, who in turn help build better communities.
The Bass Memorial Church Food Pantry has 400 registered families, and serves an average of 4,000 pounds of food each month. There are eight to 10 new families who register each month to receive emergency food resources. Beneficiaries include unemployed, underemployed, victims of domestic abuse, elderly, homeless, persons with health challenges, and individuals experiencing disaster and tragedy.
A food pantry is a labor of love. It takes people working together and being non-judgmental. The Bass Memorial Church is blessed with sincere volunteers from the church and students from Bass Memorial Academy, who work hard in planning, ordering, trucking, and more — all in order to be the hands and feet of Christ in their community.
“Let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of other,” Philippians 2:3, 4 (paraphrased).
Gulf States | November 2017