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Rural food pantries not immune to inflationary pressure

Across all 2,200 partner agencies served by all 12 MFB locations, it is clear that every agency serves its own unique population of people in need. But one thing that most agencies have in common is the current rise in the need for food. Our partner agencies are experiencing a 25% increase in demand for their services.

Our rural pantries are no exception to the recent rise in need. Yet the rural pantries often see the additional complexities of serving those that live further away, where walking or bussing to the pantry is simply not possible. And rising gas prices have created extra expenses for both the pantry and those who receive food.

For homebound people, the location of a food pantry really does not matter. They can't get there. Volunteers at the Jefferson Street Food Pantry in Lincoln, Illinois recognized that problem.

"We are the only pantry in Logan County that delivers," says volunteer director Ivan Crawford. "About 20 home deliveries happen each Wednesday and Friday by a crew of a handful of volunteers."

There are a lot of reasons people are homebound - disability, aging, mobility issues, loss of a car or job.

"When you start going into these homes it's very sobering," says Ivan. "The poverty in your own backyard becomes real."

This delivery model has provided opportunities for additional ministry. Ivan recently started compiling detailed information on the people receiving food, e.g. the number of people in the home, and the number of children. This helps volunteers customize food boxes so the items are useful for that particular family.

Opening the front door to a home also opens the door to building a relationship.

"We want people to see that we not only want to help them but we are interested in them and their life," Ivan says. "We care about them as a person."

This has allowed them to pray for people and visit them at other times, too.

"They know us now and there are a lot of stories around that," says Ivan.

"Jefferson Street Food Pantry has the unique opportunity of being welcomed into the homes in their community," says Michelle Hatfield, Agency Coordinator for MFB Peoria. "They are able to build a closer relationship with these families and they do a wonderful job of listening."

Another ministry has developed amid the rising needs, too. The pantry is affiliated with Jefferson Street Church, and church members have also started helping food pantry recipients with home repairs.

Jefferson Street Food Pantry serves about 500 people per month and receives food from Midwest Food Bank Peoria. In fact, Ivan says about 80 percent of the food they distribute comes from MFB. We have seen a 20% increase in the amount of food the pantry receives each month.

Prior to the partnership with MFB Peoria, Jefferson Street Food Pantry was gathering food from so many places and didn't always know exactly how much they would have available.

"Midwest Food Bank gave us stability," says Ivan. That stability has allowed Ivan and volunteers the opportunity to focus on the people." We know we are doing what Jesus asked us to do." says Ivan. 

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