Going Above and Beyond in Barry County
Central Community UMC Food Pantry is committed to serving neighbors facing hunger in Barry County. Oleta Swolley, Director of Operations at the food pantry says, “The most important thing any distribution center should keep in mind is that when you’re helping people, you need to love what you’re doing and love caring about other people.”
Volunteers who work at Central Community UMC say they’re committed as long as they’re needed, which is essential because the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation have increased the number of people they serve. Over the last two years more neighbors have needed meals. Many lost their jobs and are coming to the pantry for the first time. Oleta says she doesn’t know how they would serve roughly 145 households each month without the help of Ozarks Food Harvest.
To help keep people safer from COVID-19, Central Community has transitioned to a drive-thru distribution. This method has been a learning experience illuminating the lack of transportation that many food-insecure households deal with. Oleta has noticed recipients helping others by picking up food for neighbors who do not have the means to get themselves to the food pantry. “It’s because the rising cost of housing has forced families to take in other families just to be able to afford rent,” adding that she has even seen multiple families sharing one mobile home.
Having received food from a pantry herself, Oleta’s experiences have led her to focus on nutrition when stocking the Central Community UMC pantry. Ozarks Food Harvest allows her to find a variety of healthy foods for little to no cost. The options are so varied that she has begun providing information sheets about less common ingredients, such as quinoa, that consist of facts and recipes. Clients love these pamphlets, and it cuts down on waste when households receive unfamiliar foods.
In addition to their commitment and innovation with pamphlets, recipes, and drive-thru distribution, the pantry likes to find ways to go above and beyond for the people they serve in Barry County. “We even won $500 in a raffle from Ozarks Food Harvest. That helped us buy everyone a turkey for the holidays. People were so surprised, and my heart was so happy,” she says.
Ozarks Food Harvest is proud to partner with such a thoughtful organization to improve food security for the people of Barry County. To learn more about the pantry at Central Community UMC, visit https://www.ccumcshellknob.org/.