Churches step up to fill hunger gap

Hunger Action Month

PORT ST. JOE, Fla. (WMBB) — With the issue of food insecurity growing amid the pandemic, places of worship have stepped up to address the issue and feed their neighbors in need.

The First United Methodist Church of Port St. Joe in the Florida panhandle is one example. The church opened up Two Fish Food Market to combat hunger.

“We want to be able to reach as many families as possible in our community who would benefit from shopping at Two Fish,” said Vicki Abrams, chair of Methodist Caring Ministries.

Abrams said she saw a need in the community to offer no-cost shopping for people who are eligible. They received a grant from the Jesse Ball duPont Foundation and were able to purchase walk-in freezers through the Taper Foundation.

Gulf County, Florida currently has a food insecurity rate of 15 percent with 23 percent of children living in poverty. Two Fish purchases food through Second Harvest of the Big Bend for pennies on the dollar.

“We could not do this without our partners from other nonprofits and faith-based groups. We actually have an interagency group that discusses on a quarterly basis the needs around food insecurity and that group is made up of other food pantries, groups that do mobile food distributions, and churches in our community,” Abrams said.

A rental company has even found a way to contribute by asking their renters to leave unopened and unused products to be donated.

Owner of Cape Escape Rentals, Wendy Jackson, said she hopes it creates a ripple effect for other property management companies, she said the idea came from her team leader in Port St. Joe, Jennifer Gomez.

“It’s so easy to implement I would’ve done it the second they opened it if the idea was placed in my head,” said Jackson. “But I think it’s just a matter of getting the word out and people hearing the suggestion because I can’t imagine a management company not embracing it.”

The food market opened in April and has been able to help nearly 200 households and 300 individuals in Gulf County.

Shoppers can visit twice a month and have the option to choose items based on their household size.

People receiving benefits from food stamps, Medicaid, SSI, TANF, or meet income guidelines established by the USDA are eligible to shop for free at Two Fish.

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