Food banks receive donation to feed struggling families

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Area food bank operators believe the stimulus package President Obama signs Tuesday has money in it for them. That should help food banks deliver more food to a growing group of hungry south Mississippians.

One of the lead agencies trying to feed those people is the Bay Area Food Bank. It's affiliated with nearly 800 churches, soup kitchens, and non-profit daycare centers across the gulf coast. With the help of a Wal Mart Foundation donation, those groups are about to receive a very special delivery.

In a warehouse on 29th Avenue, an associate with the Bay Area Food Bank and the head of the Twelve Banks Food Bank tried to keep up with south Mississippi's growing demand for donated food items. Jacqueline Barnes is with the Bay Area group from Theodore, Alabama.

"The agencies that work with us to distribute the food say that they've experienced a 30 percent increase in families needing food," Barnes said.

Twice a week, Bay Area food products are unloaded at Twelve Baskets. This is where they're stored, until dozens of south Mississippi soup kitchens and churches stop by and pick up what they need.

Another two times a month, the government ships an additional 45,000 pounds worth of basic necessities to south Mississippi. As a result, Jennifer Knue says there's more food in the warehouse today than in quite some time. And that's good, because the demand has skyrocketed.

"We're seeing more people without jobs. And more people are hungry," the Twelve Baskets director said. "So the demand for food has gone up tremendously."

To aid with collections, Bay Area Food Bank members brought a new, refrigerated box truck from their office in Alabama to the Sam's Club in Gulfport. The truck will stop at Sam's, Wal Mart and Rouses, and haul donated items, first to Alabama, and then to distribution points around the central coast -- including the Twelve Baskets warehouse.

"Everything is going to get better. Every day is a better day," Knue said. "And we're doing the best we can to make sure that there is food out there to feed everybody."

The Wal Mart Foundation donated 20 delivery trucks to an organization called Feeding America. The Bay Area Food Bank belongs to that group. That's why it received one of the delivery trucks.

Jason Bourgeois is the membership assistant manager at the Gulfport Sam's Club. He said his company takes great pride in being able to help out the less fortunate. For instance, before unsold food goes bad, it's donated to food banks.

"We take those items and actually quick freeze them," said Bourgeois. "And instead of throwing them away, we give to this food bank, so they can deliver them to the food banks in the local community, to make an impact for those that are less fortunate."

As many as 150 churches and food banks in south Mississippi will benefit from the Wal Mart Foundation's truck donation.