Feeding More in Need: Triumph Church expands food pantry for greater reach

Published 4:00 am Sunday, October 22, 2023

Triumph Church is increasing the size of its food pantry to accommodate and prepare more food to serve Vicksburg and Warren County residents.

Triumph pastor the Rev. Mike Fields said the church is attaching a metal building to its present food pantry building at 136 Honeysuckle Road.

“We’re adding a building that’s 24-by-60 and that will be attached to a building that’s 24-by-40,” he said. “I think that’ll give us totally, with the old building and the new building, once they’re joined together, that’ll give us about 2,400 square feet.”

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Fields said volunteers for Triumph go almost weekly to the Mississippi Food Network in Jackson, which serves food pantries in the state, to pick up items for the pantry.

“You pick up what’s available and of course, certain things are more available than others,” he said. “We’re always making trips over there, picking up what we can, bringing it back, storing it, processing it and then putting food bags together that we disperse to people monthly.”

Fields said the expansion will allow the church to organize and store more food and provide more freezer and refrigerator space. Additional freezer space will allow the pantry to accept more meat products. Currently, the pantry is limited on the number of meat products it can store at any given time.

Additionally, the expansion will provide more space for produce.

“There will be what we’re going to call a vegetable washing station, where we can wash vegetables and package them to some extent because a lot of times we get like sweet potatoes — we’ll get cases of them in —or we’ll get lettuce in cases and we’ll want to bag that,” Fields said. “We need a wash station to do all that.”

Fields said Triumph has had its food pantry for about 25 years.

“It probably started around 1996, ’97,” he said. “It was actually my grandmother who led the food pantry and kind of founded it. She was a member of the church, and (the pantry) was called ‘Feed My Sheep.’ She oversaw it and rallied volunteers for it.”

At the time, Fields said the church worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Volunteers would go pick up food and take it to the church, “and then we would have a certain day of the week that people would come to pick it up and we would bag (the food) and process it.”

After his grandmother died, Fields said the church lost its connection with the USDA but continued to buy food and keep it for emergency use for several years.

“The food pantry was still there and everybody knew we had one; we would just go buy food,” he said. “We just allotted money out of the church budget every month for benevolence and we would buy lots of canned goods and things like that, and help people that were in emergency situations.”

Fields said the church teamed with the Mississippi Food Network to supply food for the pantry approximately three years ago.

“We kind of went all-in again,” he said, adding the program has developed to the point where the church could have as many as about 40 or 50 volunteers that work every month processing and bringing food into the pantry.

Fields said the program’s original name, Feed My Sheep, has been changed to Triumph Food Pantry because people tend to identify the pantry with the church.

“Carolyn Cole is our food pantry director and she really makes it work,” Fields said.

To receive groceries, people register at the church office from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to noon on Friday.

The Mississippi Food Network requires that a family fill out an application with their name, address and the number of people in their household once a year.

“We always have at least two bags of groceries (per family),” Fields said. “Every first Wednesday of the month, we have what we call our distribution day. (Recipients) come and we’ll have well over 100 cars, lined up here in the driveway in the parking lot and we just have them come through a line. We have a pull-through, and as they pull through the line we identify who they are and they’re on our list of pickups and then we’ve just put the groceries in their car. They don’t have to get out and do anything.”

Fields said the process works well and there are many volunteers working with distribution.

If people are unable to get to the church on distribution day, they can call and make an appointment and pick up their groceries at a certain time and church members can make sure everyone who’s signed up gets their food for the month.

For more information, visit tcvicksburg.com/food-ministry.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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