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Food harvest gets under way

By By Connie Nowlin Managing editor
The Atmore Area Christian Ministries works year round to provide a source of emergency food stores for residents, but the work seems to take on a sense of urgency as the weeks fall away toward the end of the year.
It had been that each church had its own food bank and relief program, according to Dr. Doug Newton, director of the program. But from time to time, people would abuse the system, traveling from congregation to congregation, gathering food and cash in a scam game.
So the churches got together and started the food ministry. Each church involved kicks in what its parishioners donate, and some also give monetary donations to help with the work.
The ministry holds several food drives during the year, and they include the Letter Carriers Drive in the spring. But During November, the Atmore schools and churches are asked to donate and collect above and beyond the needs for just one month. The entire month has been designated as Food Harvest month, dedicated to encourage and participate in the food drive as well as educate residents both about what the ministry does and how to get help to those who might need it.
"In the fall we try to have the fall harvest festival and get the schools and businesses to collect food for us," said Giles Chapman, who volunteers at the organization. "You can see we need it," he said, gesturing at the thinly lined shelves. "Especially right before Christmas. We don't get as much donated in December as in other months," he said.
Chapman said that the need right now is critical.
"We get down so low sometimes that we can't take care of our people," he said. "Then we have to buy (food) and its a problem."
Participation is not limited to just churches and schools. Businesses and clubs are also invited to show their support for the organization by donating either non-perishable food or cash.
Last year the food bank gathered and donated more than 28,000 items, but this year more is needed because of a poor job market and a slow economy. The fall is also a time of greater need because rising energy consumption leaves less money in tight budgets for food, and some individuals that had been employed in seasonal work are now without jobs.
"The demands are greater every week," said Taylor Faircloth, who volunteers for the food bank.
Because the resources of the ministry are limited, so is the help it extends to residents. A family will be helped as often as possible, but when a chronic need is noticed, those in need are pointed to other programs, such as WIC or Aid to Families with Dependent Children, commonly called the food stamp system.
That way, the food bank can turn its resources to those people who are caught in a seasonal or unexpected crunch.
There is a standard package for each person in need, and it is customized to the size of the family.
The items most often needed include canned stew, baked beans, dry beans, corn meal, flour, rice, sugar and pasta. Those basic needs are augmented with canned fruit, juice and vegetables, especially tomatoes, tins of meat and fish, peanut butter, cooking oil, macaroni and cheese, soup, crackers and canned milk. But the food bank will find use for almost any kind of non-perishable food items.
For more information or to arrange a pick up of food items, you may call the ministry office at 446-3476 between 9 a.m. and noon Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The office is located at 105 N. Pensacola Ave.