Mobile food pantry feeding Coweta
by Sarah Fay Campbell
The newest local event to feed Coweta got off to a great start this week.
A new mobile food pantry is making stops at local churches around the county, delivering fresh foods, including meats, milk, bread, fruits and vegetables, canned and bottled beverages, and even some health and beauty products.
The mobile pantry is operated by the Hill Family Legacy Resource Center. Thanks to a grant, HFL recently acquired a refrigerated truck, which makes the mobile food pantry possible.
The food truck will be at By Faith Ministry, 1160 Johnson Road in the Blackjack Community, on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. It will stop at Redeemer Church of God in Christ, 2265 Hwy. 54 Moreland, on Friday, March 21; and at Greater Pineview Pure Holiness Church, 118 Chestlehurst Road Senoia, on March 22.
Future stops are planned for churches in Grantville and Sharpsburg, and HFL is trying to connect with churches in the Turin and Haralson areas, too. Hopes are to schedule events to suit people’s schedules.
“Let’s work together to cooperatively feed Coweta,” said Sona Dunlap of HFL.
The pantry was at St. Smyrna Baptist Church in Newnan on Wednesday, and a large crowd turned out to take home plenty of boxes of food.
HFL gets the food from the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Midwest Food Bank in Peachtree City. Much of the food is at or just past its sell-by date. Those wishing to get food must fill out an intake form. The form lays out income requirements, and qualifying is based on gross income, not disposable income.
Each family is limited to one food pickup per month, but for that one food pickup, “we let them get as much as they want,” Dunlap said.
The food is arrayed on tables and visitors can pick and choose what they would like to take home. Leftovers at the end of the day are distributed to the volunteers working at the pantry.
The pantry’s first stop was Monday at White Oak Grove Baptist Church in Senoia. People appeared to enjoy getting to pick what food they wanted, Dunlap said.
A large crew of volunteers from St. Smyrna turned out Wednesday to help distribute the food.
St. Smyrna hopes to be able to host the mobile food pantry every week. Pastor Tamarkus Cook said the church wants to eventually start a summer feeding program to feed hot meals to youth in the community. The hope is to serve both breakfast and lunch. Before the church can be eligible for a summer feeding program, it must have at least a six-month relationship with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, and working with the HFL mobile food pantry is a great way to begin that relationship.
Food was distributed to more than 200 families on Wednesday, Cook said.
“I think it’s just wonderful,” said Judy Cook, who was volunteering at the intake table. “It’s just so rewarding,” she said. “I wouldn’t miss this for anything."
“It makes you feel good to help somebody else,” said Florine Lewis.
“Y’all have been a blessing,” said Dawn White, who was there Wednesday to get food. “I’m so thankful for this,” she said. “To have two growing boys … all of it helps.”
“It clearly meets a major need in Coweta County,” said John Downing, also with St. Smyrna. Downing moved to Coweta from Washington, D.C., where his church had been feeding the homeless since the 1980s. “It’s a real ministry,” he said. Sometimes, it takes nutrition to “get to the soul.”
“It’s a good thing for the community. It will help a lot of people,” said Lynn Johnson.
The HFL Resource Center grew out of a Hill family reunion several years ago. “A lot of us knew we were related but we didn’t know how,” Dunlap said. So several of the Hill cousins started doing some research, and they ended up tracing their family history all the way back to their slave owners. Then, “we decided, let’s do something to give back to the community.”
HFL has now been in existence for three years. They refurbished a cemetery where their ancestors are buried, and everybody thought a food pantry would be a good idea. There has been a small food pantry at their offices the entire time. “When we first started out we didn’t have very much money,” said Dunlap, and they gave people enough for one meal. Then they got involved with Midwest Food Bank, then an organization in East Point and, finally, with the Atlanta Community Food Bank. The organization had a GED program for a short while. Dunlap said they’d like to start doing some kind of senior citizen program, as well.
The organization recently moved from its office in Senoia to a new location off Hwy. 16 East near Newnan, across from and slightly east of Dollar General.
“I think it’s an excellent idea,” said Robert Tucker, who married a Hill and drives the food truck. “The more people that get involved, the more people will be filled with food.”
For more information or to get involved, contact Dunlap at 770-906-4286.