As the Food Bank of North Alabama continues its response to the coronavirus epidemic in the area, local donors and organizations have come together to ensure that work is continued where it is needed most. A recent $500 donation from State Farm Agent Ben Jones will help continue to curb hunger in the Lawrence County and Moulton community.
"I think everyone realizes there is a need," Food Bank Executive Director Shirley Schofield said. "Most (donors) are concentrating on COVID-19 and the uncertainty we're all experiencing at this time."
She said Jones donation will help continue an annual summer meal program, which kicked off a little earlier this year in Moulton after schools were closed in March.
Schofield said the program typically runs from May to July each year while students are out of school and many families in need are missing free or reduced-price lunches provided during the school year.
Through this program, the North Alabama Food Bank provides supplies and food provisions to the First United Methodist Church, which delivers the meals to students and families every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at McKelvey Park and the Splash Pad in Moulton during the program's duration.
Although the program began winding down its operations for this summer last week, Schofield said the program may pick back up to help fill a gap in service as students slowly return to traditional school setting or opt for virtual learning.
"We are still in the middle of our response to the pandemic. Any donations we receive are very appreciated, especially with uncertainty moving forward," she said. "I think we need to be prepared to pick up any slack while students aren't in brick-and-mortar school. People shouldn't lose sight that this is going to be a continuing crisis."
Moulton First United Methodist's Pastor Matt Reed, who volunteers to distribute the meals, said he sees a wide range in community response to the program each week. Some weeks he said 20 to 30 families may show up to receive the food assistance, while other weeks that number drops to five or six families. He said that number is also heavily reliant on the weather.
He said the program has seen about 20 other volunteers this year from within congregation and some from the community.
Schofield said Jones' donations could potentially provide 3,500 additional meals, especially as the community sees a need for further supplement when the school year presumes.
"Generally, every $1 provides seven meals. We're very efficient with what we're doing," she added. She said the Food Bank benefits from buying directly from food distributors, and purchasing items in bulk helps to keep costs low.
"Ben and his office have been very supportive. It's nice to see someone who realizes the importance of summer meals and wants to help to keep that program going," she said.
Jones and his team from State Farm met with Schofield and volunteers with the program last Friday to present the $500 donation.
"Our communities are hurting right now, and our obligation is to step in and help our neighbors," said Jones. "Supporting the work of the North Alabama Food Bank is one way I can help our community get back on its feet."