Food bank needs overdraft protection

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 27, 2003

As Selmians gather around their Thanksgiving tables laden with food today, there are many far less fortunate for whom a Thanksgiving meal of any kind may not be in the offing.

A number of churches and organizations are working to get holiday meals to those who would not otherwise have them.

According to Buddy Wiltse, director of the Selma Area Food Bank, there continues to be a desperate shortage of items such as canned meat and fish and canned vegetables.

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While there has been some uptick in supplies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the Montgomery Food Bank, from which Selma receives most of its foodstuffs, the major grocery chain supply of dated food items continues to be far below what it once was.

Wiltsie said he was encouraged that the Big Lots chain had agreed to supply dated food to the Montgomery bank, but that food will be mostly snack items, he said, and to his knowledge delivery has not yet begun.

Wiltse said that some fruit has been recently received and that the bank is supposed to receive frozen peaches next week, but he

noted that handling of frozen items is more difficult than canned.

The supply of canned meat and fish is almost totally exhausted.

Area schools conducted

drives for the entire month of November, and Wiltse said he is hoping that there was a good response. The bank will be picking up these stockpiles after the Thanksgiving holidays. The drives are important both for Thanksgiving and the Christmas seasons.

Wiltse said overall that he was thankful for what the Selma bank has received and has been able to distribute to area food pantries and other food distribution partners. But the need remains critical, he said.

Wiltse said that while food can be donated, cash is probably the most helpful donation. Food can be purchased more cheaply by the bank than by most individuals, at the time it is needed.

On the other hand, donated foods are absolutely welcome, he said. Frozen foods can usually be accepted, unless they are no longer in their original packaging.

If individuals and groups want to bring donated food items, the bank’s warehouse located at 497 Oak Street off Medical Center Parkway, is open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

On Fridays the office is open from 8 a.m. to 12 noon but not the warehouse.

Tax-deductible contributions may be made to: Selma Area Food Bank, P.O. Box 2513, Selma, AL 36702.

Wiltse said that the bank is happy to pick up food from local donors.

For further information, call 872-4111.

Miller Childers chairs the board of the Christian Outreach Alliance whose sole activity is food distribution from a small facility located at 24 Church St. between Alabama and Selma avenues. He also chairs the board of the Selma Area Food Bank.

Childers said: &uot;We’ve gotten lots of help, but still need more.&uot;

According to Childers, the situation has been a bit brighter due to help from area churches and other organizations, but is not yet in the comfort zone.

The Thanksgiving service held last Sunday at St. Paul’s was especially helpful, Childers said. More than 300 people from at least 10 churches were in attendance and a large quantity of food was donated.

The number of persons receiving food has remained fairly constant, but there seems to be more first-time recipients, he said.

He noted that the Montgomery Food Bank has communicated that they hope the situation with those items most needed &045; canned meat and fish and fruits and vegetables &045; will be alleviated somewhat over the next several months.

In the meantime, the alliance is doing what the Selma Area Food Bank is doing, buying locally at the best price possible. Calhoun Foods and Dollar General have offered food items at reduced prices, he said.

Childers’ list of needed food items includes canned meats and fish, canned vegetables, canned and dried beans, and breakfast cereals.

Volunteers pack food at the Church Street location on Wednesdays, from 1:30-2:30 p.m.

Food is distributed on Thursdays, from 10 a.m. – 12 noon.

Persons and groups wishing to donate food items should aim for those times, he said. If that’s not possible, he suggested contacting one of the downtown churches who are principal supporters. The alliance has a phone number listed in the directory but it is not answered, he said, except when volunteers are present.

Tax-deductible contributions may be made to: Christian Outreach Alliance, P.O. Box 688, Selma, AL 36702.