3 groups work together for food distribution

ALPENA – A line of vehicles wound its way around the Alpena County Fairgrounds as each driver waited to pick up food at a free distribution organized by a church and two organizations.

Beaver Lake Community Church, the local Knights of Columbus and Hunters Harvest for Charity arranged to have a truckload of food delivered from Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. The food was organized, boxed and handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis to those who qualified. Altogether, they gave out more than 18,000 pounds of food, Beaver Lake Community Church member Dave O’Neil said.

O’Neil and other organizers want more groups to help so they can make these distributions on a monthly basis. Jeff Kennedy, with Hunter’s Harvest for Charity, said there’s a great need for these large distributions in the Alpena area. At the most recent distribution, they served 315 families, mostly from Alpena County but with others coming from the surrounding counties.

Beaver Lake Community Church started the food distributions and others joined in to help, member Brenda South said.

“We saw an increase in our own food bank in need,” she said.

Volunteers boxed up food from 18 pallets that, when put together, weighed as much as two pickup trucks. The food ranged from snack cakes and cans of pop to frozen chicken breasts and oversized bags of cereal. This load was bought from the food bank by Knights of Columbus, Ed LaBell said. He’s a chancellor with the organization, and also is involved with Hunter’s Harvest, which bought food for the previous distribution.

Outside, volunteers signed up recipients, who needed to qualify under the United States Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Food Assistance Program income guidelines, O’Neil said. They’re based on 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines, and for a household of four that’s a monthly income of $3,925, according to Michigan’s 2013 guidelines.

For those who missed this one, there’s another distribution coming on Jan. 30 at the same place, LaBell said. Recipients need an ID and proof of residence and income. Drivers can sign up and pick up for multiple families, provided they bring the required documents.

For Joyce Newhouse, the food helps her stretch a limited budget, she said. She lives on $700 per month and pays nearly all of her utilities. She lives by herself, which helps her to make food last a little longer, her food stamps have been cut recently and it’s harder to get by.

Newhouse rode on a Thunder Bay Transportation Authority bus to the fairgrounds, and took note of the long line of vehicles outside.

“I’m surprised there’s that many people out there,” she said.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at jtravis@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at www.thealpenanews.com.