Hospital Pantry Adds Fresh Foods
Posted on Monday, June 23rd, 2008
(from left) Charlene Frazier, Ella Toles, Lula Finch, and Rose Jackson gather fresh vegetables from the new walk-in refrigerator at the Mercy Health/Love County food pantry in Marietta.
Fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy products are being offered for the first time at the emergency food pantry operated by employees of Mercy Health/Love County Hospital and Clinic.
“This is a God-send. We are thrilled that we now have fresh foods for the families we serve,” said Lula Finch, a longtime volunteer.
Hospital staff and community volunteers dispense food baskets from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays at the pantry building north of the clinic on Wanda St. Home delivery is made to some clients unable to travel.
Emergency food packages, consisting of about 12 items, are available 24 hours per day at the nurses’ station in the hospital.
Potatoes, onions, milk, bread, and other perishables have been handed out since May, along with the canned and packaged foods and frozen meats that have been staples of the pantry the past five years.
Fresh foods were made possible by the addition of a 1,000 cubic foot, walk-in refrigerator. The refrigerator was placed by the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, from which the pantry makes most of its purchases. Also new to the pantry building is a covered reception area.
The pantry is aided by local food drives and financial contributions from the public.
A total of 36 tons of food were distributed last year, said Richard Barker, hospital administrator.
Pantry efforts are directed toward the hungry and the food-insecure. Hungry means not knowing where your next meal is coming from. Food insecure means not having enough to eat some of the time, such as a family that runs out of money for food at the end of the month or that is unable to obtain nutritional food because of cost.
Currently, 200 Love County families qualify for service on a weekly basis. This includes 214 adults and 84 children.
Numbers are up the past few months with rising gasoline and food prices, said Charlene Frazier, hospital business office manager.
On a Tuesday in June, the contents of a sample food basket included one large can each of apple sauce, grapefruit juice, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce; one package each of macaroni noodles, peanut butter crackers, bread, tortillas, special K bars, crackers, and hot chocolate; and a jar of mayonnaise. From the freezer came frozen pizza. From the refrigerator came potatoes and milk.
The actual contents of a basket vary from week-to-week, depending on what’s made available from the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
One recipient, a middle-aged woman, said she had been a weekly client of the pantry since January. “My financial situation changed following my husband’s death. In all, I’m feeding five people, adults and kids,” she said.
In addition to weekly acquisitions from the hospital pantry, the woman said she spent much of her cash food budget at the Angel Food Ministries program at Eastside Baptist Church. Under that program, open to all without income restrictions, recipients order one or more boxes of groceries every month at savings of 50% or more off retail prices.
One box typically will feed one person for a month or a family of four for a week.
A third program in Love County is associated with Big 5 Community Services and the Love County Ministerial Alliance. Under that program, recipients in need can receive up to three days’ food supply in an emergency.
The hospital pantry is one of 400 charitable feeding programs licensed by the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. The Regional Food Bank is a private, nonprofit Oklahoma City organization that acts as a central clearinghouse through which the food industry and community may donate surplus food and other goods.
The goods are then distributed to licensed food pantries. The cost to a pantry is low, amounting essentially to shipping.
Barker said the pantry typically pays 14 cents per pound of food. “We are also eligible to receive USDA commodities,” he said.
The hospital employees launched the feeding program in 2001 and the Love County Health Center Foundation advanced $10,000 in 2002 to construct the steel building that houses the pantry.
The building underwent an expansion to accommodate the new refrigerator and reception area.
Pantry volunteers include Gary Whittington, Ella Toles, Roger Whittington, Lula Finch, Rosa Jackson, Lucille Sloan, John McBride, and Wakie McBride.
The telephone number for the hospital pantry is 276-3347; for Angel Food ministries at Eastside Baptist Church, it is 276-3169 or www.angelfoodministries.org; and for Big 5 Community Services, it is 276-3154.