First UMC Fort Smith Launches Neighborhood Eats

First United Methodist Church of Fort Smith and its Feeding the Fort Ministry recently received a $2,000 grant from 200K More Reasons to launch Neighborhood Eats. Neighborhood Eats offers families a bag of food with items and other kitchen staples to make two or three meals per bag. This feeding ministry strives to provide families in the Fort Smith community with groceries, resources and the love of Jesus Christ. 

“Our church plans to implement Neighborhood Eats in April or May this year,” said Tiffany Pierce, outreach director at First United Methodist Church of Fort Smith. “Neighborhood Eats will be offering grocery bags once a month through an evening drive-thru service. Food bags will include recipes that correspond with the contents of the bags, and each food bag will have extra resource information inside.”

One of the ways this ministry is unique is when the food bags will be distributed, which is 5:30-6:30 p.m. This provides working families the opportunity to pick up a food bag after work. The bags also will be distributed at the end of the month to help families stretch their funds until the next paycheck. 

“We hope to not only provide food but build relationships with the recipients with this new ministry,” Pierce said. “Neighborhood Eats takes our existing food ministries to the next step of assisting those in need. We have seen an increase in our attendance at last month’s breakfast for the community and have heard from these attendees that stretching their funds for food has been a challenge. Inflation has also affected many in our community.”

Grant funds from 200K More Reasons will help Feeding the Fort Ministry purchase additional food items needed, which cannot be accessed from the food bank, for Neighborhood Eats. 

“The need in our community is great, especially in the neighborhood where our church resides,” Pierce said. “When looking at the Fort Smith household income map, the neighborhoods that surround our church are in the low-income bracket. We are less than half a mile from an elementary and middle school, whose students are 92 percent economically disadvantaged, and a high school with 77 percent of its students coming from economically disadvantaged homes. We work with the social workers at these schools to provide food for families in need in the school district, and we want to continue building these relationships with school social workers and offering a more consistent stream of support for these food-insecure families.”

The goal of Neighborhood Eats is to help 25 families with children receive food for its first year. Pierce says First United Methodist Church of Fort Smith also hopes to reach 100 families per month, regardless of whether they have children.

“We will keep our food costs as low as possible by receiving commodities from the River Valley Regional Foodbank,” Pierce explained. “This grant from 200K More Reasons will help this new ministry cover the costs of food items to make the bags stretch into several meals for the families.”

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