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Local food pantry needs help in fight against hunger

The shelves of the White Hall Food Pantry are “pretty bare right now,” Robin Bolen, coordinator of the facility at the First Baptist Church Activities Building, 8203 Dollarway Road, said Monday, and food collected May 11 in the 21st annual National Association of Letter Carriers will be appreciated.

“It’s that time of the year when kids will be getting out of school for the summer and will miss those school breakfasts and lunches when the cupboard is bare at home,” she added. “We are struggling right now.”

The local food pantry, Salvation Army and Neighbor to Neighbor will share the food items collected in Jefferson County collected by Postal Service employees in next month’s “Stamp Out Hunger” campaign, she said.

Angela Jones, a letter carrier who is coordinating the collection effort run out of the main Pine Bluff Post Office, said this is the second year for the food pantry to participate in the collection of non-perishable food items.

Letter carriers will distribute bags the week before the Saturday, May 11, collection effort, Jones and Bolen said, with the food to be left at mailboxes for the carriers to collect. They ask donors to place the food in plastic bags in the event of rain that day.

“We have a need for peanut butter, crackers, cereal, breakfast food of all kinds, especially things that kids can open,” said Bolen. Canned soups, canned vegetables, pasta and rice are also on Bolen’s wish list.

“We are hopeful our shelves will be brimming after May 11,” she said. “We anticipate the drive will carry us through early November.”

She said the economy has increased the demand on the food pantry’s resources, including a growing list of families with children and senior citizens.

Students at Moody Elementary School collect thousands of food items during their annual December drive and the food pantry depends on the drive for building up stocks to carry the pantry through several months.

The seven churches in the White Hall Ministerial Alliance — Central Baptist, White Hall United Pentecostal, White Hall United Methodist, Claud Road Baptist, First Baptist, Hardin Baptist and Family Church — sponsor the food pantry, which was housed for a decade at the White Hall Volunteer Fire Department, but outgrew the available space, Bolen said.

Volunteers from the churches and others staff the food pantry from noon until 3 p.m. the second and fourth Thursday of each month.

Bolen said the move to the church activities center allows recipients to “come inside out of the weather” when they arrive at the food pantry to pick up foodstuffs. Space was limited to one room at the fire department, with the food pantry housed in a meeting room.

In addition to providing food supplies, the alliance helps those in need with utility bills and some prescription medication needs, the coordinator explained.

Members of the White Hall City Council have been bringing non-perishable food items to the monthly council meetings for more than a year to donate to the food pantry.

Bolen said individuals wishing to leave non-perishable items for the food pantry can also drop them off at White Hall City Hall from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.