‘We need space’: Vicksburg food pantry in time crunch to find new home

Published 6:04 pm Thursday, July 7, 2022

Rolling a shopping cart down a crowded aisle of a grocery store can be frustrating, especially if the item one is searching for is not available.

Then there are the long checkout lines — the ones that put the chocolate chip ice cream in peril. Shopping for groceries can be exasperating, monotonous and sometimes just downright tiresome.

Nevertheless, the alternative would be frightening. Just imagine, not having the finances to purchase a loaf of bread or a can of beans, much less a gallon of ice cream.

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Unfortunately, there are folks in Vicksburg who need assistance and since 2002, the Storehouse Community Food Pantry has been providing that aid.

However, it is now the food pantry that is in need of support. The 501(c)3 non-profit organization needs a new space.

Since 2018, the Storehouse Community Food Pantry has been located in a rented space provided by Good Shepherd, also a non-profit organization whose services include providing childcare to the community.

Bill Mounger, who is past president of the food pantry, said Good Shepherd’s preschool and aftercare program is expanding, and the space that is currently occupied by the food pantry will be needed for their expansion.

Mounger said they will have to be out of the building by the first of November, which leaves them little time to find an available space.

“We would love to be able to purchase a building to use as our permanent home,” Mounger said, but to do so would jeopardize funds used to purchase food supplies. “Since we do not have a guaranteed ongoing source of funds, such a purchase would leave us without funds to purchase groceries, pay insurance, maintenance, etc.”

Therefore, Mounger said, they are looking for a facility that doesn’t charge rent or at least not a large fee, has at least 2,000 square feet that won’t require a significant cost to make it operational and a space that would be centrally located and accessible to their clients.

“We would also need space for our volunteers to park and if at all possible, drive-thru capability for serving our clients without the line spilling over into the street,” he said.

The Storehouse Community Food Pantry has provided 2,856 meals so far this fiscal year, Mounger said and with the ever-growing cost of food, gas and utilities, these numbers are certain to increase.

Jimmy Turner, who is a volunteer at the food pantry has heard this firsthand.

“They tell me that the food prices are very expensive, the food stamps have been cut, their light bill is very high, their water bill is high, and they don’t have money for food,” Turner said.

And for an organization that food pantry volunteer Donna Cowart said “gets people through challenging times,” needs will certainly grow.

According to a report conducted by Feeding America, Mounger said currently 18.2 percent or 8,580 people living in Warren County suffer from food insecurity.

“This group is not necessarily food insecure all the time but may have to make tradeoffs between important basic needs, such as housing and medical bills and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods,” he said.

Food pantry volunteer Cathy Bowles said many of their clients are elderly people who live on a fixed income and people with large families.

“Even though they are getting the free school lunches during the summer — what about dinner,” Bowles said, in reference to school-aged children who need proper nourishment.

And for the children who arrive with their parents at the food pantry, Bowles said, they are given treat bags provided by the volunteers.

“We make sure the children get a children’s treat and that’s all volunteers paying for that out of their own pockets,” she said.

Also providing assistance to the food pantry are business and civic organizations, Cowart said, which have included the U.S. Postal Service, ERDC, the Knights of Columbus, International Paper, Vicksburg Catholic School, VWSD elementary schools, Hennessy Insurance and ecumenical groups.

Mounger said the average monthly expenses for the Store House Community Food pantry range from $4,500 to $5,000.

“The bulk of this goes for groceries we purchase for distribution, but also includes rent we pay Good Shepherd and the cost of our alarm system and any necessary maintenance,” he said.

The assistance provided by Vicksburg’s food pantry is not only vital to the community but appreciated by those receiving the aid.

“When I go to the car to get their name and information, they (clients) are thankful and appreciative and say, ‘God bless you,’” Cowart said.

“And they also say, ‘Thank God y’all are here because y’all are getting me through this,’” Turner said.

Vicksburg’s food pantry is open from 10 a.m. until noon Mondays and Wednesdays and from 5 to 6 p.m. on Thursdays.

For anyone interested in making donations, becoming a volunteer, or who can help with securing a new location for the food pantry, call 601-642-0636 or email storehousecommunityfoodpantry@gmail.com.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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