More than 25 volunteers gathered inside Hernando United Methodist Church to pack two weeks’ worth of food boxes for 35 families, including 99 children, 49 adults and eight seniors. Most volunteers returned later in the day to deliver the boxes into families’ vehicles.
It is an effort with financial support from a group of churches through Mid-South Food Bank, to help many of the same families who benefit from the assistance program called Backpack Angels that provides over 200 school children with food assistance during the school year. Amy Daniels, minister of discipleship and ministries at Hernando UMC, said an interest meeting to provide critical help to families during summer when schools - and school cafeterias are closed - was initiated in May during a meeting of the Hernando/Nesbit Interfaith Council On Poverty.
“We had a tremendous response. This is just a pilot program for an immediate need. But if it continues to be supported, we hope to increase the amount of food next summer,” she explained.
The catalyst for the meeting was a local pediatrician, Dr. D. D. Sidhu, who contacted Mid-South Food Bank, which provides almost one million pounds of food annually to six pantries in DeSoto. Many of the families receiving the boxes were identified through social services at Holy Spirit Catholic Church.
The food boxes will be packed every two weeks until schools reopen for class.
Lynn Pattison, with Fellowship Baptist Church, volunteered to pack items that included fresh produce, bakery items, soup, chicken, cereal, rice and taco shells.
Some household items such as toothbrushes and toilet paper were added to the boxes. Recipients got a gift card for a gallon of milk.
According to Feeding America, the food insecurity rate in DeSoto County is 15 percent while the child food insecurity rate is 20 percent.
“I was surprised to learn that there are 729 families just in Hernando who go to bed hungry,” Pattison said. “There we are enjoying cookouts with plenty of food. It’s hard to reconcile that disparity without trying to do something to help.”