Students from Monticello High School help to pack bags for distribution at the FUMC Monticello mobile food pantry on Oct. 26. Photo provided by Lori Fallon.

By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Three Southeast District churches recently worked to end childhood hunger in Arkansas by offering mobile food pantries in areas where there is a shortage of low-cost food options for the hungry.

First UMC Monticello, St. James UMC Pine Bluff, and First UMC Dumas partnered with the Arkansas Food Bank to host quarterly mobile food distributions in Arkansas, paid for by grants from Starbucks Coffee Company.

The mobile food pantries are set up at churches with tables, chairs, snacks and water for guests, allowing people to fellowship while others pick up a variety of food options.

In late October and early November, St. James Pine Bluff was able to serve 100 families with 25 volunteers, including church members and UAPB students.

First UMC Monticello served 100 families as well, with 60 families arriving to the church food pantry within the first 30 minutes of the doors being open.

“First United Methodist Church was contacted in August 2019 by Mary Lewis Dassinger, the project coordinator for 200,000 Reasons to fight childhood hunger, about an opportunity to be a mobile food distributor,” said the Rev. Lori Fallon, associate pastor at First UMC Monticello.

Fallon said Dassinger has been working with the Arkansas Food Bank and Southeast District Superintendent the Rev. Mark Norman to find ways to distribute more food in the district.

“On Friday, Oct. 25, we received our first truck full of food and in addition to the 10 adults, welcomed 25 Monticello High School student council members to help with the unloading,” Fallon said.

Volunteers from FUMC Monticello prepare to distribute food at their mobile food pantry on Oct. 26. Photo provided by Lori Fallon.

First UMC Dumas was able to serve 128 families with their distribution. Thirteen volunteers from the church assisted with the event, and they distributed almost all of the food from their pantry, including fresh chicken and produce.

Dassinger said the mobile food pantry was made possible only through grants and a strong partnership with the Arkansas Food Bank.

“Through a generous grant from the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas, these and other churches in the Arkansas delta will be able to extend the impact by hosting more mobile food distributions,” Dassinger said.

Fallon said they plan to host another distribution in 2020 to continue the partnership with the Arkansas Food Bank and Starbucks.

“It was an incredible experience,” she said.

If your church is in the Arkansas delta and within a community with not enough access to low-cost food, contact Mary Lewis Dassinger at mdassinger@arumc.org for more information.