Feeding Families sees ‘drastic increase’ in numbers since beginning of pandemic
Blessing Box on Main Street accepts donations
Edee Grunn has been at the helm of Hartselle’s Feeding Families food pantry, a ministry of Mt. Tabor Church, for nearly five years. Pre–pandemic, Grunn said the organization fed an average of 350 people every week. The number of people seeking help from Feeding Families has skyrocketed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, with the organization feeding as many as 800 families in a week’s time.
“When the pandemic first started, our numbers quadrupled overnight,” Grunn said. “During the first shutdown and when we had the first stay–at–home order, that’s when we saw a jump. A lot of people did not get unemployment, and a lot of people did not get the stimulus checks.
“Even if people had enough money to buy what they needed, there were limits on many things, and stores ran out of food,” Grunn added. “People who have seven or eight people in a family couldn’t buy enough food because of the limits. We started getting people who never dreamed they would be standing in a food pantry line, but they had no choice because they had to feed their kids.”
The numbers have somewhat evened out in recent months, but Grunn said the ministry is still often overwhelmed by the number of people in the area who need help. She said Feeding Families serves people from six counties.
“If they can get here and they need food, we will try to help them – I don’t care what their address is,” she said.
Thanks to a new drop–off spot in downtown Hartselle, called the Blessing Box, Grunn said more family’s needs are being met, and that has helped alleviate some of the pressure on the food pantry.
Melanie Burger, owner of Hartselle’s Forever Kate boutique, has been a volunteer with Feeding Families “since day one,” Grunn said.
“When the pandemic first started, I couldn’t bring volunteers in – I had to run the office alone. Melanie saw all this and came up with the idea of the Blessing Box,” Grunn explained. “There are so many people who we can’t reach; there are people who can’t get here on pantry day. So Melanie obtained the box, fixed it up, filled it up, and she keeps it full. She sponsors it for us as an outreach of Feeding Families.
“It’s been a huge success that’s gone over very well,” Grunn said. “It’s our pilot program – our pilot box. In time we want to blanket Morgan County with these things, but it will take time, mostly because it’s hard to find cabinets and make them suitable for this sort of thing and then find places to put them where people will take responsibility for filling them up.”
Burger said she got the idea from a friend who had a similar outreach.
“A friend of mine in Pell City has a Blessing Box, and she posted it on Facebook. I thought it would be a great way to help people and to take some stress off of Edee,” Burger said. “So many times, I have seen her empty her own pantry out and her own personal cupboard and actually go hungry when there were people at her door – especially children.”
Burger said she felt the beauty of the Blessing Box is that it could be “accessible to everybody, and people could come and help themselves,” she said. “They could come 24/7, and that might take some of the burden off of Edee, and it might be a blessing. It might give someone hope.”
Burger started the Blessing Box about two weeks ago. Since then, she said it has been refilled daily, and she has begun receiving donations – both monetary and canned goods.
“In the first few days, I refilled it six or seven times at least,” Burger said. “I stock it every morning when I get to the store, and there have been some days that it has been stocked three times.”
Canned goods, single-serve food items and baby supplies, including diapers and bottles, are some of the goods usually found in the Blessing Box. Burger said it takes about $60 to stock the box.
“We also put Bibles in there. I feel like if they can sit down and read the Bible, that will give them the absolute true meaning of hope, and that’s truly where all hope comes from,” she said.
“The donations have started rolling in now, and people have dropped off food and checks. I’m so thankful for the community for helping with this,” Burger added. “This was a dream, and I was just going to put a few things in a box to help people out, and the community has made it so much bigger than I ever could have by myself.”