Hunger in America Study 2014 at Greater Triumph Missionary Baptist Church in Chatham, VA
It was a small space in the bottom level of a church. There was room for people to come in and stand, a serving area for the boxes of food, and a refrigerator and freezer along with a few shelves for storage. Some of the walls weren't completely painted and it smelled a little musty in the small space. They were using paper and pencil to keep track of those that came in to receive their food - compared to some pantries that are using computers and organizational software. Then, the last thing that anyone expected, the power went out from a storm blowing through which meant no lights and the possibility of food spoiling in the freezer and refrigerator. The atmosphere at the pantry felt vulnerable and almost helpless.
But out of this scene three dedicated women that run the church food pantry showed up because they knew that they needed to be there. They wanted to serve and provide food for to those in need - even if only three people came in to receive food that day. The Hunger Study team was only able to approach the second person that came in because of randomness requirement of the survey. The gentlemen respectfully declined and stated that he didn't have enough time to take the survey. As you can see, we didn't have much success in regards to the Hunger Study but that is part of the experience. There are times where we will have the chance to approach 20 to 30 people to take the survey and we gain a ton of data...then there are other times like in Chatham where there is no data to be taken and it could be deemed a failure.
But was it a failure? For me, it was a success. I asked questions and observed - I found out that the Greater Triumph food pantry has been in operation for 40 years; That it is entirely ran by volunteers from the church and many times they scrape by in finding help, money, and food but through it all they continue to serve. I also asked how many people they serve in a week - they said that it is anywhere between 3 and 14. My first thought was, only 14? That's it? The last pantry visit I made in Danville, VA served 150 people in one day. But with that kind of thinking I would see 14 people go without food....go without food...think about that for a moment. The consequences of this happening are immense and herein lies the mission of Feeding America Southwest Virginia, "Our mission is to feed Southwest Virginia's hungry through a network of partners and engage our region in the fight to end hunger."
The mission is to feed people and engage the community and that is why we help small food pantries such as the one at Greater Triumph Missionary Baptist Church. Our network of food pantries greatly varies across the southwest Virginia area with some feeding hundreds of people a month and then some feeding 20. But at the end of the day the large numbers don't matter - if it was just 1 person being fed then that would be a success. No one should go without food...and that statement is what I and many others here at Feeding America Southwest Virginia are trying to achieve.
I have copied a couple of links below to the food safety website for proper handling during the event of a power outage. While we were at the food pantry we were making sure that all foods that were frozen or refrigerated were safe to give out. The last thing we want to happen is for someone to get sick. I hope you find the information useful!
Refrigerated food during power outages: http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/refridg_food.html
Frozen food and power outages: http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/frozen_food.html