JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A Jackson County soup kitchen is being forced to end its food delivery service because the money to keep it going has run out. Our Daily Bread officials said the move will affect nearly 500 people in need of a free, hot meal across the county. This cut is one of many as the nonprofit struggles to remain open.
Rain or shine, Our Daily Bread's Ray Lankford has been delivering free, hot meals to the needy since the 1980s. He said for many, this is the only plate of food they eat.
"They get their meal, and they feel better for the rest of the day," said Lankford.
Friday will be the last day meals will be delivered to homes in Jackson County. Our Daily Bread board members said the service is now being cut.
"We serve almost 480 residents in Moss Point, Pascagoula and Gautier. Many of these are older individuals unable to leave their houses, and we are the only contact that they have," Board Member Dobbs Dennis said.
Board members admit ending the delivery service was a tough decision. The yearly operating cost for the soup kitchen and services totals around $142,000. With donations and grants dwindling, the cut had to made.
"We have been robbing Peter to pay Paul. People have donated property, and we have turned that around and sold that, but it is just not keeping up. Many of our donors are feeling the same stresses as we are, and they have to slow down on their giving. Some of the churches that have been faithful supporters have had to drop out completely. Some of our corporate sponsors have had to cut way back, and it is because of the economy," said Dennis.
Director Mary Meldren said her food staff was slashed from five to three people. Now, she's depending on help from volunteers. The kitchen serves more than 18,000 walk-ins monthly.
"I got paper work proof that shows this south kitchen feeds the most and delivers the most out of any soup kitchen in Alabama, Louisiana and the state," Meldren said.
Our Daily Bread officials know this is bad news, but they're still hoping for a miracle to happen so no one will have to go hungry.
"I pray to God that we get the funding we need immediately," said Meldren.
"Something miraculous has to happen. God's hand has to work on this," said Dennis.
The delivery service will end Friday, but the soup kitchen in Pascagoula will still serve walk-ins seven days a week. If you would like to provide funding to help continue the home delivery service, please call Our Daily Bread at (228) 769-7510.