Helping to feed Plymouth County
LE MARS — Once a month, the Siouxland Food Bank food distribution is held at Rejoice Community Church in Le Mars.
The distribution is in addition to the church’s food pantry has and which is held twice a week.
The monthly food distribution is a team effort, according Everett Vardaman, one of the volunteers.
He said the church’s food pantry, and the monthly Food Bank distribution gets food from the Siouxland Food Bank independently.
While most of the food for the monthly distribution comes from the Siouxland Food Bank, “We also get generous contributions from Hy-Vee in Le Mars and Walmart in Le Mars, along with occasional outside contributions,” Vardaman said.
“Plus we purchase food from the Food Bank each month. I’m guessing for every $1 we spend, we get $10 worth of food. It’s a great investment for us,” he said. “They are also very cooperative in getting us the food we need, the kinds of food we need and the kinds that we think people will consume.”
People who come to the distribution must fill out paperwork annually to participate.
“We are required to do that by the Food Bank. You determine what your clientle is. We know that almost all of them are Plymouth County people. We have a few from outside Plymouth County but they are rare,” Vardaman notes.
One of the requirements is to ascertain that families and individuals are eligible for some food programs, and they are asked about their income bracket, not specific income, as well as number of people in the household.
“We try to determine the food is mostly going to people who are ‘in need.’ We want to avoid if possible, giving food to those who are ‘not needy,’” he said. “It’s up to the person to be honest with us.
“We’re not there to regulate, we’re there to feed the people that need food,” he added.
Vardaman indicated in the last few months there has been a noticeable increase in those coming to the food distribution.
“Last month was the greatest number of families that we’ve had come through in a couple of years,” he said. “Each month seems to be increasing a little bit, which we would expect. We expected to see that because of inflation and the price of groceries going up.
“There are a good number of families that are just adults, such as older people who don’t have any younger people in their household,” he said. “We also have a lot of younger ones who have a lot of kids, too.”
He estimates it is a 50-50 split.
However, the numbers, he said don’t matter. It’s the food.
The food bank provides a mix of canned goods and at least one kind of meat, and quite often more than one kind.
“Sometimes it varies depending on what they have, but quite often we will get some produce,” he said.
From Hy-Vee, the church receives bread and desserts.
“It’s a welcome sight, these people get more bread and desserts than they know what to do with,” he said.
Walmart provides an assortment of meats, some bread and desserts, as well as other miscellaneous food items.
What is the response of the people receiving the food?
“Oh my goodness, they are very, very grateful. It’s like a lifeline for most of them. And they express that,” he said.
Each family is provided with a grocery cart at the door, as well as boxes which they fill up.
“We help them carry the boxes out to their vehicles, and put the food in their vehicle. Most of them couldn’t pick up the boxes they fill up. So they express their gratitude to all of our people,” Vardaman said.
A goal of the food distribution is to share fellowship.
“We want to feed them no just food, but spiritually as well as physically,” Vardaman said. “So we have some some people that do nothing but visit with the people that come through.”
He said it is important the volunteers and the church do that.
“We always, always, want to make sure that people understand that is our goal. It’s not just handing out food. Our team is very determined to be positive that way,” he added.
While it is a lot of work on the distribution day, Vardaman said it is actually a fun thing to do.
“It’s fun because we’re doing something good for the community and everybody is happy to be able to do that,” he said. “One of our guys told me last week, when I thanked him for his service he said, ‘Well, we’re really happy that we’re on this side of the table,’ which obviously means you’re not on the receiving side, you’re on the distributing side. We are happy we can do that.”
He also encourages those in need to receive food.
“We will continue to do this as long as the Lord let’s us do it,” he said.