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Opinion
Palm Coast Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019 2 months ago

Who are the 3,200? Data and faces from Flagler County's Grace Community Food Pantry

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Flagler County's main vehicle for providing food to needy families accepts donations — even small ones.
by: Brian McMillan Executive Editor

Every month, the Grace Community Food Pantry serves 3,800 families. Pastor Charles Silano told me recently that the pantry collects data to see where the food is going, and he has learned that only about 600 of those families are what he considers “chronic,” accepting food at each opportunity. Many of the 600 have disabilities or are elderly and can’t work.

Who are the other 3,200?

That’s harder to say. Over the years, more than 8,000 families have been served, a number that surprised me. Many go weeks or months — even years — between visits to the long lines of cars waiting for groceries.

“They’re very grateful,” Silano said. “They’re just trying to get by.”

Many of the families have two wage earners, but the wages are $10 or $11 per hour, and they have no savings. So when a car needs to be repaired, or if there’s a medical problem, something has to go. The pantry is a way for families to supplement their food so that they can afford to pay a bill, Silano said.

I see the long line of cars often as I drive by on the weekends, but on Aug. 8, I visited the pantry as a delivery boy for my son Grant, 13. To fulfill a civics class requirement this summer, Grant made food-drive fliers and distributed them to people on our street; then he collected several grocery bags of canned and boxed food.

Considering the magnitude of the operation, I figured this delivery would be almost more trouble than it was worth to the food pantry volunteers. But I was wrong. I met Becky Bergeron at the door. Others carried the food to tables inside, where volunteers immediately started sorting.

“Little donations help,” Bergeron said.

To prove her point, she led me on a tour of empty shelves and freezers in the warehouse. She assured me that trucks were on their way; people would get fed. But Silano and Volunteer Coordinator Dottie Colletta later told me that, during the summer, there aren’t many food drives, so the 3,800 families sometimes get meat and produce only — nothing for their own pantry shelves, like boxes of pasta or cans of tuna.

Monetary donations to the food pantry are the most effective way to help feed families, because Silano can buy food for 18 cents per pound, whereas the best deal I might find is 50 cents per pound at buy-one-get-one sales. But nonperishable donations like the cans and boxes from my neighbors add variety to the food distributed at Grace.

Drop off food at the distribution center 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays or 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. Visit http://gracecommunityfoodpantry.com to make a monetary donation.

 

Brian McMillan has been editor of the Palm Coast Observer since it began in 2010. He was named the Journalist of the Year for weekly newspapers in North America by the Local Media Association in 2012. He lives in Palm Coast with his wife and five children. Email...

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