Volunteers at Matthew 25 Ecumenical Food Pantry bag up fresh cabbage during a recent St. Louis Area Foodbank Mobile Market / Photo by Bethany Prange
It’s a sunny Monday in Carlyle, Ill., and the cars have been lining up since 6 a.m.
Five hours later, the line of cars stretches halfway through this small town in Clinton County as families patiently wait for the food they need.
Today is mobile market day at Matthew 25 Ecumenical Food Pantry, a day when families struggling with hunger can receive fresh produce, dairy and bakery via a special delivery from the St. Louis Area Foodbank.
On the third Monday of every month, a Foodbank truck arrives at the pantry, filled with fresh food that must immediately go out to those who need it.
Soliciting highly-nutritious fresh food means the Foodbank constantly faces the possibility of expiration. For instance, if we bring in a truckload of fresh tomatoes that are already very ripe, we must distribute those tomatoes to families in need immediately to make sure they get eaten.
That’s where mobile markets come in. Items that are close to expiration – or even just fresh items we have an abundance of – are delivered in bulk to one of our 500 partner agencies. Agency volunteers then immediately give the food out to families in need.
On Monday, Aug. 20, 2012, Matthew 25 Ecumenical Food Pantry and the people of Carlyle were ready and willing to take their 14,910 pounds of fresh produce.
More than 20 volunteers spent several hours in the church parking lot, sorting and re-bagging the veggies before handing it out to the families waiting in the line of cars.
The Foodbank truck brought cabbage, carrots, red bell peppers, veggie dip, cucumbers, zucchini, red potatoes, white potatoes and sweet potatoes. A regular veggie smorgasbord!
“It’s usually always vegetables, fruit, bakery and dairy,” says David Huene, director of Matthew 25 Ecumenical Food Pantry. “We don’t get a lot of fresh produce other than the mobile market.”
Pantry volunteers spread word about the mobile market by telling the 220 families who visit the pantry’s normal distribution day on the first Wednesday of the month.
The need is certainly evident. On Aug. 20, Huene counted 250 families in line at the mobile market.
“If it wasn’t for the food pantry, we wouldn’t have made it,” says one client named Sherry. “My husband got hurt and couldn’t work. They’ve been so good to us.”
Sherry spent her Monday volunteering at the mobile market, anxious to help others get the food they need. As she handed out bags of carrots to families waiting in line, Sherry offered a kind word to each driver who passed.
“I get food for other families with kids,” Sherry says. “They’re so grateful to have anything to feed their kids.”
Bethany Prange is the communications coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank