Pay it Forward

Food needs are year-round – not just during holidays

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Anna Waskey

As the weather changes and temperatures chill, food ministries and organizations become immensely important in aiding Macon County individuals in need. People may forget to donate food, except during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons, but directors of food resources affirm that hunger is a year-long problem that can be addressed during every season of the year.

Twenty-six percent of households in Macon County are food insecure, according to CareNet Director Tim Hogsed. This means that roughly 4,000 households out of the 16,000 in Macon County require some food donation resources.

Citizens of Macon County can do much to assist those in need. Macon County CareNet, located at 130 Bidwell Street, is a prominent food ministry in Franklin. Hogsed provided insight into what it takes from the community to support CareNet.

PACKAGES OF FOOD are prepared to be distributed to those in need.

“Both monetary and project donations are helpful, as much and as often as people can donate,” said Hogsed. “Over the last couple of years, there has been an increase in these numbers (of people in need) and more people have come to help. However, times are tough with the rising food and fuel costs.”

Every third Thursday of the month, volunteers are encouraged to pack bags of food that are distributed to the nearby elementary schools. In addition, anyone needing food can go to the CareNet headquarters on Bidwell Street, Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and pick up a pre-packed box of food as well as produce, bread, and pastries when available. The only requirement is to show photo identification and proof of residency in Macon County.

Besides food, CareNet can also provide limited financial assistance with other necessities, such as utilities, fuel, and rent on an emergency basis. 

“The food ministries in town are very accessible as there are websites that tell people where to go and what they can do to help,” said Hogsed. “The items that are needed most are canned chicken and tuna, dry beans, canned fruits and vegetables, spaghetti pasta and sauce, and personal hygiene items. As we are coming into the holidays, frozen turkeys and hams are also needed.”

CARENET VOLUNTEERS sort and pack food bags that are distributed to Macon County elementary schools. Food is also available at CareNet’s Bidwell Street location Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

First Presbyterian Church of Franklin’s benefit concert for the Macon County Care Network will be held at 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 3 in the church’s sanctuary at 26 Church Street in Franklin. The program will feature the church’s music director, Frank Armato, playing a variety of musical arrangements on the piano, keyboard and organ; Dan Williamson on trumpet; Linda Sterrett on hand bells; and Barry Clinton and Sharon Taylor, guitar and vocal.

The public is invited to attend this free concert. A love offering will be taken for CareNet and First Presbyterian

Church will match all monetary donations up to $1000. A reception with cookies and cider will follow in Tartan Hall. Hickory Knoll Methodist, located at 86 E Hickory Knoll Road, offers a food pantry on the fourth Wednesday of each month from 4-6 p.m. Joan Provost, a member of the congregation, explained that daily essential, non-food items are needed as well.

“We have it in our budget to buy supplies; plus, we ask the congregation to provide supplies every other month. Laundry detergent and toilet paper were highly requested, as those items can get pricey. The best thing to do to help, since we don’t know what we will be needing month by month, is to make a (financial) donation to the church designated for the food pantry.”

Macon County Program for Progress distributes food in a drive-through style in partnership with MANNA.

“The most needed donations are staple food items that they’ll use every day,” said Executive Director Chuck Sutton. “They’re not looking for anything fancy; they just need items that will help them prepare meals and get food on the table. The public can support any number of the pantries that are active in Macon County. There is not the same high demand that there was during COVID-19, but there is certainly still that acute demand for those who are still in need.”

BOXES OF FOOD are available at Prentiss Church, 59 Church Hill Lane off Addington Bridge Road the third Thursday of the month from 2 to 5:30 p.m.

At Prentiss Church, 59 Church Hill Lane, every third Thursday of the month, a food pantry is open from 2-5:30 p.m. Whatever is available at the time, both food and other daily necessities, are given out.

Prentiss Church pastor J.D. Woodside explained why Prentiss offers food boxes to those in need in the community.

PRAYERS ARE also shared at Prentiss Church with food for those in need.

“We believe in ministry to the whole person, and when physical needs are met, we have an opportunity to speak to spiritual needs,” said Pastor Woodside. “Our hope is to reach our community and show them the tangible love of Jesus in whatever way we can. We are grateful for the many volunteers and financial supporters that allow the Prentiss Pantry to bless families each month not only physically, but spiritually as well as we pray for all who are willing.”

FRESH WATER is another important component of food security.

Volunteers also expressed that often people ask for prayer even before they are given the box of food, and the church members are happy to comply. For anyone who is interested in donating to Prentiss’s food pantry, the church – and many food ministries and organizations – primarily stocks such items as macaroni and cheese, peanut butter, canned vegetables and fruit, cereal, instant potatoes, canned pastas (ravioli, beefaroni, etc.), spaghetti sauce, boxed spaghetti and other pastas. Prentiss is open during the week to drop off donated items.

Some other food opportunities for those needing assistance are Bethesda Food Ministry at Trinity Church, St. Francis of Assisi Food Pantry, and the Little Free Food Pantries around town (much like the Free Libraries), which are available for anyone to take or donate nonperishable food items, toiletries, laundry detergent, etc.

LITTLE FREE Pantries are scattered throughout the county, like the one on Palmer Street near Ace Hardware.

Bethesda Food Ministry, 6971 Georgia Road, is open on Tuesdays from 9-11 a.m. Food boxes are by appointment only and those who are in need can call (828)524-2196 from 8 to 9 a.m. on Tuesday mornings to make an appointment.

Additionally, St. Francis’s food pantry volunteers provide their time to stock shelves, purchase groceries, donate garden produce, and work in the pantry during open hours. St. Francis is located at 299 Maple Street.

“People are in different seasons at different times, but sometimes they need food and hope,” said Hogsed. “We all [food insecurity ministries and organizations] have one common goal and that is to help those in need. And, the more help the better.”

Correction: In the article above, we misstated the process by which families may receive food from Trinity Church’s food pantry. Bethesda Food Ministry at Trinity Church gives out food boxes every other Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The remaining date this month is Dec. 19. and the ministry will resume in 2024 on January 2, 16, 30. Anyone needing food should NOT call the church but on the designated dates go to the Family Life building, which is the large, metal building located behind the church. Trinity Church is located at 6971 Georgia Road, Franklin.

Anna Waskey is an honors student at Franklin High School.