Mercy Health Love County - News

Employees Cut Ribbon on Hospital Food Pantry

Posted on Friday, July 19th, 2002

Employees of Mercy Health/Love County Hospital and Clinic will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 3 p.m. Wednesday to officially open the emergency food pantry they have established.
The public is invited to the event, which will take place in the 24’ x 30’ building constructed on the north side of the clinic at 300 Wanda. Guest speaker will be Debbie Bell, coordinator of Kids Cafes for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
The ceremony will be followed by a meeting of the Interagency Planning Group, which has been assisting the employees in making referrals of qualified food basket recipients and evaluating pantry operations.
The food pantry opened on May 14 with the intent of serving the hungry and food insecure of Love County. Currently, about 60 families are receiving assistance.
The employees have acquired a license to receive donated food from the Regional Food Bank and commodities from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The dried and canned food is stored in the food pantry building for assembly into 12-15 item food baskets. The baskets are dispensed to qualified recipients from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Tuesday.
The pantry pays little more than the shipping expense for the donated food -- about 5 cents per pound. Volunteers in the community have been stepping forward to assist the employees in preparing food baskets or making deliveries to homebound recipients. They also are making donations for food purchases. The budget of the pantry is currently $125 per month.
The idea for the food pantry grew from a 10-day food drive in September 2001 sponsored by Mercy Health System in sourthern Oklahoma.
The 64-member staff in Marietta topped all participatants by donating 2,000 food items. Then, they kept bringing canned and dried food to the hospital/clinic and dispensing it to patients in need.
Employee representatives visited a food pantry in Ardmore and took over the responsibility for serving the 30 Love County families receiving assistance there. Ultimately, they acquired the licensure to become an official food pantry.
The Love County Health Center Foundation, believing the employees’ project to be meeting a significant public need, provided funds to construct the pantry building.
Recipients of food baskets include both qualified patients of the hospital/clinic and others who meet income or other eligibility requirements.
Food banks across the country report increasing demand, especially among the working poor. Despite their own hard work, they cannot always make ends meet, says the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
The pantry the local employees have undertaken will help supply the needs of those requesting emergency food assistance, those in poor health, and those, especially the elderly, having to choose between food and other necessities.
Low paying jobs, the tightened requirements for food stamps or welfare, and the high cost of health care have combined to increase the number of households requiring food assistance. The USDA defines “food insecure” as “being hungry at times during the year because there was not enough money for food.”
This category fits over 80% of recipients statewide, according to a 2001 survey of clients of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. One in three persons served the prior 12 months were children, and one in five, adults over age 65.
The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, based in Oklahoma City, is a private, nonprofit 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 more than 480 charitable feeding programs in 53 central and western Oklahoma counties. In 2001, the system provided food for 188,226 people.
Statewide, 80% of food pantries are operated by faith-based groups. The employee group at the Marietta hospital/clinic is unusual in establishing a food pantry, but they see themselves as “on a mission” to be of service to their client population.
Speaking in behalf of the hospital/clinic employees, administrator Richard Barker invited the public to celebrate with the staff the official opening of the food pantry next Wednesday. “We have a caring staff,” he said.