Working Smart and Working Hard to Serve Howell County
In the Ozarks, many households are just one unexpected misfortune away from difficult financial choices. Job loss, health issues, disasters, and numerous other setbacks can mean having to choose between paying the bills and buying groceries.
“We live in an area where the food pantry is well-needed,” says Jennett Haynes, the Executive Director at F.E.E.D. food pantry in Mountain View, “There aren’t too many job opportunities. Some of our food recipients have lost their jobs or are living off of one income instead of two. Many are elderly.”
Jennett admits she didn’t know what she was getting herself into when she became the Executive Director at F.E.E.D. food pantry thirty years ago, but she knows the job is worth it when each month she sees many clients grateful to receive groceries from the pantry.
F.E.E.D. has been hard at work keeping the Mountain View area fed for nearly five decades. The pantry serves around 350 people every month. Between its rural service area and small budget, the pantry often has to be resourceful in order to support clients facing food insecurity. In fact, F.E.E.D.’s once-a-month distribution is operated entirely by volunteers.
“I’m proud of our volunteers. We couldn’t do this without them. Some of them help me with intake and paperwork, and some make boxes and work in the building. They know what they’re doing, and they do a great job making sure things run smoothly,” says Jennett.
For many years, the pantry was housed in a local Catholic church, but in 2019, F.E.E.D. food pantry needed to relocate. Jennett met with the city of Mountain View, and in a true display of community partnership, the city offered to lease them the old VFW building at a very affordable rate. Jennett says their new location has been highly beneficial. The larger space and storage allows the pantry to more effectively serve their community.
The pandemic, with all of its obstacles and challenges, also resulted in a more organized system to serve clients. To reduce in-person contact, F.E.E.D. converted its distribution method to a drive-through model, which the pantry has now adopted as its permanent system moving forward.
“Month one was kind of hectic, but after a couple of months we got used to it and realized that the drive-through is actually smoother and less confusing than when people were congregating inside,” explains Jennett. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a reminder that problems can arise unexpectedly, but F.E.E.D.’s drive-through distribution is a positive effect.
Like the pandemic, some complications are unforeseen. In such circumstances, F.E.E.D. has to figure out ways to cope with issues while they continue to serve their neighbors.
“We have our regular expenses like utilities and insurance, but sometimes unexpected things pop up,” Jennett says, “So I try to figure out ways to get a little extra money to make sure we can cover other expenses.”
One way that Jennett manages the pantry’s budget is by searching for grants. In 2019, Ozarks Food Harvest, in partnership with Feeding America, was able to help F.E.E.D. receive a grant for a walk-in freezer for their new building. The grant also included a concrete pad, installation, electric, and Charity Tracker and internet service.
“The walk-in freezer helps tremendously! I really like working with Ozarks Food Harvest. If not for Ozarks Food Harvest, we wouldn’t be able to serve all these people,” says Jennett, “Plus I really like the people who work there. I can always call with questions.”
Ozarks Food Harvest is proud to partner with pantries like F.E.E.D., whose resourcefulness and hard work allows them to keep their community fed. To learn more about F.E.E.D. food pantry’s work or their distributions on the first Thursday of each month, call 417-277-5521.