Getting groceries is easy, right? You get in your car, drive to the store, buy the groceries, come home, and put the food away in your refrigerator-freezer and cabinets. But what if you have no car to get to the store and no money to buy the food? Kokomo has a number of food pantries, and every day the Kokomo Rescue Mission opens its dining room – no questions asked – to anyone who shows up. But there are still those who live too far to walk to a pantry or dine at the Kokomo Rescue Mission.
There’s no doubt about it. Kokomo needs a mobile food pantry, a way to get food to you when you can’t get to a food pantry.
It’s been talked about for some time, said Bebe Dorris, director of development for the Kokomo Rescue Mission. She noted that when Grace Memorial Church of God in Christ on the city’s northeast side had to close its food pantry last fall that those who serve the needy knew it was time to stop talking about it and time to start doing something about it.
When Grace United Methodist Church was asked for help, it purchased a truck and trailer to create the mobile unit. Center Township trustee Jean Lushin donated food, First Congregational Christian Church provided $2,000 to purchase food, and Oakbrook Community Church provided $2,500 to purchase food, said Jeff Newton, executive director of Kokomo Urban Outreach.
Food from the Kokomo Rescue Mission, Kokomo Urban Outreach, and donations given specifically to the project will stock the mobile pantry. It’s a program called “Food to You.”
“Jeff at Kokomo Urban Outreach has such a great network of volunteers, so his volunteers will package the food; it will be a uniform package, providing the same amount to every person who gets the food,” Dorris said.
The mobile pantry will distribute food not only to the northeast side of town at Grace Memorial COGIC, 1417 N. Delphos St., but also throughout the community.
“The point of it is to go into areas that are not within walking distance of a food pantry,” Dorris said.
“We want to deliver food to neighborhoods where there are no stationary pantries within walking distance,” Newton said.
Last week, Food to You distributed food at Grace COGIC.
“It went very, very well,” said Newton. “We served 84 families, and 57 of the families had never been to a pantry before.”
Overall, the number of people turning to pantries is increasing, he said.
The Kokomo Food Pantry Network includes the Kokomo Rescue Mission, Samaritan Love Center, Kokomo Urban Outreach’s five pantries, St. Vincent De Paul Society, Main Street United Methodist Church, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, and Zion Tabernacle.
On the day the Food to You mobile unit was put into service for the first time, three other Kokomo Food Pantry Networks pantries were open. “Of the four food pantries in the network that were open, we helped 257 families,” Newton said.
“The number of first-time users is really high right now,” he said. “About 25 percent of the people the Kokomo Food Pantry Network has helped in the past two months were first-timers.”
Because of the increased demand, “We expect to do one mobile outreach a month at first and then we’ll have a route of probably three or four stops,” Newton said.
“I think this is one of the most helpful outreach programs that’s come along in a long time because people without transportation are limited from getting the things they need,” Dorris said. “In many instances they have to buy their food at a convenience store because they can’t walk to a store and carry the groceries home. And the cost of food at a convenience store is so much more than at a store. We’re trying to reach people who aren’t being reached.”
“We thank everyone for the mobile unit, food donations, and for volunteering,” Newton said.
To receive food from the mobile pantry, you need a picture ID; you also must not have received food from a pantry in the month in which you receive food from the mobile unit.
To find out when Food to You will be in a neighborhood, call Kokomo Urban Outreach at 457-1983.