Our Mobile Pantry Program was established in July 2010 and since then has delivered thousands of meals of fresh produce and food to families in need. The food bank staff works together to coordinate food quantities, distribution rates, location and partnerships, including making volunteer arrangements. Sometimes mobile pantries are sponsored by a particular organization and the host sites can vary. A single mobile pantry can feed 300 families, with the average mobile pantry distribution being 2 hours.
So how does it happen?
It all begins with the funds that allow us to set our wheels, literally, in motion. When partnerships and logistics have been established, the schedule is released and volunteers are secured.
On the day of the mobile pantry, our drivers start loading the truck a few hours before the start time. They load two trucks; the first truck has side awnings and six compartments that open up so that food can be accessed. The second truck contains the frozen products, such as frozen meats, frozen peaches and other freezer goods. Trucks carry a total average of 14,000 pounds of food for each distribution.
Our trucks arrive to the site approximately a half an hour before the start time when volunteers start to arrive. It is not uncommon to have many families wait hours before start time to ensure they will receive food. We are grateful for the volunteers that help us serve them.
While in line the clients begin to fill out a basic form that will allow us to supply an adequate amount of food for their family. We also ask if there are seniors living with a family. Slips are given to help the volunteers distribute the correct amount of frozen goods to each client.
After they have their ticket, they will receive the heaviest items first including canned goods, or a bag of potatoes and work their way around the first truck. We always serve the bread last. After the bread, clients usually free themselves of their load so they can go to the second truck and carry the meat and refrigerated goods, which are heavy.
Then they are on their way with food and hope; as one grateful client Helen described, “my refrigerator will never be the same."
During our 100th millionth pounds distribution, a mobile pantry held in Bonita Springs on May 3rd, the Salvation Army of Lee County hosted blood pressure and glucose testing while clients waited to receive food. We are looking forward to more partnerships like this. At our 2014 Hunger Summit on May 9th, we discussed how we will be moving in that direction. A scheduled mobile pantry for this week, the week of the 1st, will have Goodwill’s Job-Link van on-site to “help people with employment, skills training and family strengthening” (Goodwill).
Our mobile pantry program is a driving force that helps us get food to those in need. Help us keep our wheels moving by donating today! Summer is a critical time where we must work together. If you would like to help out at a mobile pantry in your area, please contact Tanya Phillips, our volunteer manager at (239) 334-7007 extension 141 or email her at email@example.com.