Food Bank giveaway draws 250 families
by Emily Adams
SYLACAUGA – “Is this it?” was the question of one citizen to Jim Jones, co-director of Alabama Childhood Food Solutions, at Friday’s food giveaway.

The roughly 7,500 pounds of food provided by the Community Food Bank of Alabama, in partnership with ACFS and The Sanctuary, quickly ran out as representatives from more than 250 families filled the former Food World parking lot for assistance.

“We have food for 185 families, and that’s if they receive roughly 40 pounds each, but we’re starting to ration it to around 20 pounds and then to 10,” Jones said. “It hurts my heart to have to turn people away, but that’s the reality.”

Brooke McKinley, community engagement coordinator for CFBA, said Sylacauga had the largest crowd they have seen at this event so far.

“This is at least double what we’ve had anywhere else,” she said. “It’s a new program, so we’ve only done three giveaways, but we’re focusing on the must underserved areas, and Talladega County is one.”

People receiving assistance from TANF, SSI, SNAP or within certain income guidelines qualified for the giveaway. No proof of need was required. The food, largely supplied by USDA through the Feeding America program, included frozen meats, canned goods, rice and other nonperishable items. Twenty-seven volunteers were on hand to distribute it.

Residents started lining up at the Main Avenue location as early as 6:30 a.m., and all the food was given out within two hours of the event’s 10 a.m. start time. Resident Charles Lewis said the high turnout of the city’s first-ever food giveaway is proof that citizens needs help.

“The people of Sylacauga need this,” said Lewis, who doesn’t qualify for SNAP because he lacks a permanent address. “You can walk the streets here and see people digging in garbage cans for food. I’ve seen kids eating from garbage cans.”

Linda Jones, co-director of ACFS, said the need for food points to a need for jobs.

“I hope this will open eyes to the fact that a lot of people here are below the poverty line,” she said. “We need industry so people can have jobs. If you make $1 over the limit for food stamps, you don’t get it, and minimum wage doesn’t get you very much. We have the opportunity for quality jobs to come here, and we need to get them.”

Jim Jones said they are searching for ways to host a monthly food giveaway to meet the high demand. The first giveaway was paid for by CFBA, but any subsequent events would cost $750. The Sanctuary will tentatively host a giveaway July 19.

CFBA distributes food through local nonprofit and religious groups that directly serve those in need through their own programs. In Sylacauga, those groups include ACFS, The Sanctuary, ChristPoint Community Church and Wesley Chapel, Jones said.

Councilmen Tom Roberts and Shannon Darby were at the event. Roberts said it is “good to see more and more organizations stepping up” to help others.

“For people in need, it gives them hope that things can and will get better,” he said. “It gives them a chance.”

For more information on the Community Food Bank of Alabama, visit www.feedingal.org. To reach Alabama Childhood Food Solutions, email info@alabamachildhoodfoodsolutions.com.

Contact Emily Adams at eadams@dailyhome.com.

© 2013