Selma Food Bank working to combat hunger.

Published 1:10 pm Tuesday, November 21, 2023

In Alabama, the stark reality of hunger is a pressing issue, with one in seven adults and one in five children facing food insecurity, according to the sobering statistics provided by www.feedingamerica.org

The scale of this crisis is reflected in the estimated $461,137,000 required to meet the food needs of those grappling with hunger in the state.

The Selma Area Food Bank has emerged as a crucial player addressing this challenge, but Executive Director Jim Harrison emphasized the uphill battle they face, stating that while servicing Perry, Marengo, Wilcox and Dallas counties, the food bank encounters significant limitations in Selma.

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“We’re in a food desert,” Harrison said. “Every other food bank in the state has at least twenty retail outlets where they can go and get food. We have two. Here, we have the most need and the least resources.”

Compelled by the scarcity of local resources, the Selma Area Food Bank has broadened its search, reaching out to places like Montgomery and Prattville for support. Regular contributions from Aldi, Target and Publix are transported back to the Selma facility, where they undergo sorting and packaging. These supplies, comprising pantry staples, are assembled into 25 pound boxes, then wrapped and loaded onto pallets for distribution by local agencies.

“We have a little better than fifty agencies that we supply food to,” Harrison said. “Most of our agencies are churches.Selma may have multiple food pantries, but only one food bank, and the Selma bank plays a pivotal role in bridging the gap between supply and distribution.”

In its three decades of operation, the food bank has weathered various challenges, including the recent turbulation of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the initial response saw a significant surge in donations from both organizations and individuals, these contributions have dwindled or ceased altogether.

“We’re privately funded so it’s all donations,” Harrison said. “That’s how we survive,” “As the economy falters, the food bank finds itself in a precarious situation: demand is rising but resources are shrinking.”

Despite these obstacles, the food bank has demonstrated resilience and growth, expanding from a 7,000-square-foot building to an impressive 70,000-square-foot facility that distributes over 2 million pounds of food annually. 

Norm Trotter, who helped found the organization in 1993, acknowledged the immense progress but underscored the ongoing challenges.

“There was no food bank then [in 1993] but there was certainly a need,” Trotter said.“We began with a group of maybe twenty of us so that transformation from the initial building to this is amazing.”

However, Trotter also highlighted a persistent issue – exposure. He believes that increased awareness of the organization’s work could prompt more donations and guide those in need to a helping hand.

“We need to get the word out,” Trotter said. “So many people don’t even know about us.”

Those with questions or wishing to donate to the Selma Area Food bank are encouraged to contact them at 334-872-4111 or visit their website at www.selmafoodbank.com.