EMMETSBURG, Iowa—Grace Baptist Church is partnering with the Iowa Food Bank to expand its food pantry program. The church started a nonperishable food pantry in October 2015 after seeing a need in its community. The ministry, however, got off to a slow start as the church tried to spread the word about its existence.
Grace Baptist heard about the Iowa Food Bank’s Mobile Food Pantry program from an Emmetsburg group called Feed Our Kids. Feed Our Kids partners with the Iowa Food Bank to provide bags of food that are sent home with schoolchildren on the weekends during the school year. The Feed Our Kids committee thought Grace Baptist might be interested in expanding its existing food pantry by hosting the Mobile Food Pantry offered through the Iowa Food Bank. Food pantry manager Paige Metzger thought it would be a great opportunity for Grace Baptist Church to further its reach into the community, and Pastor Curtis DeFord and the other leaders of Grace Baptist agreed.
On June 9, the Iowa Food Bank sent a truck loaded with more than 4,000 pounds of food to be given away at the church’s Mobile Food Pantry that evening from 5:00 to 7:00. Grace Baptist Church didn’t know what to expect that first evening or how many people would show up to receive the food. But by 4:00, members of the community were lining up outside the church doors to receive the nonperishable food, as well as fresh produce, bakery items, eggs, and frozen chicken.
Volunteers from Grace Baptist Church kept busy throughout the evening. “It seemed like everyone in the community decided to come at once, and there was a constant stream of people for the first hour,” Metzger says. Volunteers registered members of the community (representing 96 households), distributed food, and carried food to vehicles. “By the end of the night, there wasn’t much food left,” she says.
July saw an increase in those visiting the Mobile Food Pantry, with 126 households represented. Grace Baptist makes the Mobile Food Pantry available every second Thursday evening of the month, while the church’s nonperishable pantry is open the first and third Tuesday evenings of each month.
“Even though volunteers are kept pretty busy when the mobile pantry is open, they still find time to share a word of encouragement, hand someone a tract or Bible as they load food in their car, or even a quick prayer,” Metzger says. Grace Baptist Church hopes its food pantry ministry will enable the church to show that it loves and cares about the members of its community, but more importantly that God loves them too.