A local nonprofit feeding ministry and food broker provided more than 1,000 boxes of food to local families and ministries on Friday.
The first-ever Free Food Friday “was a huge success,” I Feel the Need, Inc. Executive Director Shane Willbanks said.
I Feel the Need, a nonprofit organization, has teamed up with he United States Department of Agriculture and other local partners to provide Faulkner County families battling food insecurity with food. The nonprofit received 17 pallets of dairy products on Friday through the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program.
The Farmers to Families Food Box Program is part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program that allows the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to partner with national, regional and other local food suppliers to have been affected by restaurant closures – as well as other business shutdowns caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic – and purchase up to $3 billion in dairy and meat products along with fresh produce. I Feel the Need applied for and was granted assistance under the stipulation that it disperses the family-sized food boxes to families, other nonprofits as well as community and faith-based organizations that can also distribute the food.
I Feel the Need volunteers met up Friday morning at the Community Action Program for Central Arkansas at 707 Robins St. in Conway and immediately began handing out food to those waiting in line.
Organizers had expected to receive milk, dairy products and produce items. However, the produce items did not arrive with the shipment.
Despite the minor set back of not having produce items, Willbanks said the event was “more successful than we expected.”
Several ministries were lined up and ready to pick up food. Unfortunately, organizers had to turn a few organizations away so that they could reserve 10 pallets of food for local families.
“We had to turn ministries away … dozens, which was heartbreaking for me. But we didn’t know how many families were going to show and wanted to make sure 10 pallets were going directly to families,” Willbanks said.
Between 7:45 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Friday, organizers handed out 1,356 boxes of food. Each family received two gallons of milk and a 15-pound box of dairy products that included yogurt, sour cream, butter and cream cheese. The food is available to anyone, and those who participate in the event are not required to show documentation or proof of residency to receive food during the event.
Organizers expect to host a second event “within the next 10 days” and have specifically requested that produce items be included with the shipment, Willbanks said.
The nonprofit director said Friday’s event would not have been possible without its local partners, particularly CAPCA, City Church, the Conway Ministry Center, Soul Food Cafe, Fellowship Bible Church and His Place His Way.
For updates on the next free food event, follow I Feel the Need on Facebook.