Feeding the hungry

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Food Bank of East Alabama, local organizations work to end hunger this Thanksgiving

By Morgan Bryce
Staff Reporter

Reducing the number of the more than 27,000 hunger insecure citizens in Lee County is the goal of the East Alabama Food Bank this Thanksgiving holiday.
Martha Henk, director of the food bank, said that the number of the hunger insecure needing food in Lee County is growing each year.
“It’s actually pretty significant … I’ve watched the numbers really climb over the years, especially in the last few. Not all of them are hungry right now, but at some point, they are going to have difficulty in having a reliable, stable source of food,” Henk said.
Throughout the year, Henk said the food bank partners with more than 200 agencies who have a food pantry or soup kitchen, and tries to provide them with highest quality food possible. One of those agencies, Opelika-based Christian Care Ministries, had their Thanksgiving meal this last Thursday.
Randall Carpenter of CCM said that their partnership with the food bank has been very beneficial for his organization, and that they not only provide assistance around the holidays, but throughout the year.
“We feed people once a week on Thursdays … have a hot meal for anyone that wants to come eat. And once a month, we have food distribution where people come and pick up a box of food, usually about 30-35 pounds worth,” Carpenter said. “We have a really great relationship with the food bank, and they provide us with the food that we need.”
Thanks to fundraising campaigns in the fall such as the annual Beat Bama Food Drive, Henk said that the food bank is usually well stocked for the fall and holiday season.
“It’s hard to quantify, but each month on average, we distribute about 400,000 pounds of food, which is the equivalent of 13-14 18-wheelers full,” Henk said.
Henk and Carpenter both acknowledged that there is still a long way to go before there are no longer any hunger insecure people in Lee County, but said they hope that both their organizations help to bridge that gap this Thanksgiving.
“Most of us are going to enjoy a nice Thanksgiving meal, and we want to know that most of the people in our community have the same opportunity and blessing. I’ll never forget a woman who we were able to provide turkey and other Thanksgiving fixings and she said, ‘now I can invite my family home because now I’ll have something for them to eat,’ “ Henk said. “That’s really cool, and what we’re all about.”
Carpenter said that through their Thanksgiving meal and other meals and food boxes throughout the year, that he and his organization not only meet people’s physical needs, but their spiritual ones too.
“Aside from their need for food, we have a ministry where we pray and have Bible reading before the meal. We look at it like this: if you want to feed the soul, you need to feed the body first, so that they’ll be more receptive to the message that you have for them,” Carpenter said.

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