United Church of Christ (UCC) Congregational Church is getting a helping hand through a new partnership.
In June, UCC became an agency partner of Food Bank of Iowa, a private, charitable, non-profit organization committed to alleviating hunger through food distribution, partnership and education.
Mary O’Riley, pastoral intern at UCC, said the partnership is a win-win situation.
“We are able to get a large variety of foods at discounted costs or no cost through the food bank,” O’Riley said.
Riley said the partnership with Food Bank of Iowa allows the church — which operates a food pantry for approximately 1,700 men, women and children a year — to serve more people better quality food. Each week, the food pantry helps supplement meals for more than 40 families.
“Our goal is to provide the shoppers that come to our pantry with things they can make nutritious meals with,” O’Riley said.
Through the partnership with the Food Bank of Iowa, UCC’s food pantry has a better stock of meat, vegetables, fruit, eggs, grains and non-perishable products. Many of their offerings come from USDA, prison vegetable gardens, church and community groups.
Last week, shoppers were able to shop from more than 1,500 pounds of food.
“We got meat, turkey, pepperoni, spaghetti, eggs, strawberries, oranges, pita wraps, ham and cheese, boxed and canned items,” O’Riley said.
It takes a village
To help offset the cost of handling fees assessed to some of the Food Bank of Iowa commodities, Farm Credit Services of America has granted $2,000 to United Church of Christ Congregational Church.
Additionally, UCC is required to have a refrigerator and freezer in the food pantry storage and distribution area. However, the electrical needs to be updated in the building to accommodate the changes. Because of this, South Central Iowa Community Foundation has granted $9,000 to upgrade and add additional breakers and circuits to the food pantry.
“We were blowing circuits with the roasters that would be plugged in to provide a hot meal (for Open Table),” O’Riley said.
O’Riley said the food pantry is one of three programs offered at United Church of Christ.
UCC also offers free, hot meals 5 p.m. every Tuesday during Open Table. O’Riley said the church has been offering the meals to community members with the support of volunteers from businesses, clubs, civic organizations and other religious congregations in the area.
The Union County Ministrial Alliance assistance fund is also managed out of UCC by Rev. Delores Doench of Platte Center Church. The assistance fund is an emergency fund for qualifying individuals.
“One guy started a new job and needed steel-toe work boots and couldn’t afford them,” O’Riley said. “Others may need some assistance with a heating bill, a light bill, ... rent ... or gas to be able to get to work on a job outside the Creston area.”
O’Riley said the support of the volunteers and funding organizations allow UCC and partners to carry out their mission.
“We have a lot of families with both parents working at minimum wage and trying to raise families,” O’Riley said. “It’s a struggle to make ends meet. So, this is a place where they can come.”
Individuals in need of financial assistance, a warm meal or food to stock their pantry can visit United Church of Christ Congregational Church, 501 W. Adams St., between 3 and 6 p.m. Tuesdays.