RUSSELLVILLE, Mo. — On a windy day in January, volunteers quickly exited their vehicles when the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri mobile food pantry pulled into the parking lot of Trinity Lutheran Church, Russellville.
"No matter what the weather is — rain, snow, sunshine — we're here," Gladys Moll said.
Moll is the co-director for the Russellville drop off.
Every second Tuesday, she and more than a dozen volunteers unpack the 8-10,000 pounds of free groceries for the community.
Last week, 354 people received food at the mobile food pantry — 240 bags of oranges, 760 containers of tomatoes, 480 kale salad kits and 534 mini cookie containers were among items donated.
Mobile pantries distribute in 32 counties, including Cole, Moniteau, Miller and Morgan. Products come from the regional food bank, whose home base is in Columbia, where they store millions of pounds of food.
As a Feeding America member, donations are secured through manufacturers, restaurants, wholesalers and others, according to their website. They also send food to brick-and-mortar pantries like California Nutrition Center, Cargill Cares Food Pantry and Food For Morgan County Inc. No mobile location is available in Moniteau County.
"We try to get as much nutritious and fresh food as possible on the mobile truck," food bank agency relations coordinator Melissa Schulte said. "Some times those are items (that) those of limited income are unable to purchase."
United Way of Central Missouri purchased the truck that serves Cole County. President Ann Bax said the need in the area beyond brick pantries needed to be addressed.
"Our food pantries are doing excellent work, but they were just at capacity," Bax said.
Now, their partnership with the regional food bank allows the truck to come to Cole County six times a month at different stops to help fill that gap.
The Food Bank also serves communities through Buddy Pack programs in schools. On Fridays, students who receive a free or reduced-priced lunch at participating schools receive items of food to take home over the weekend and holiday breaks. California Elementary and Middle participate in the program.
Anyone with an ID, proof of residency and a social security card is served at the mobile pantries. However, no one is turned away.
"We don't ask any questions," volunteer Della Off said.
Volunteers push shopping carts around the tables set up outside the truck. Their system is broken down half an hour before people start getting groceries.
For example, a family of four may receive four packs of chicken breast and five bags of kale.
"We do get a lot of processed chicken nuggets," citizen Carol Roark said. She said she shops for her family of four regularly.
Some pick up for larger families or neighbors who can't leave the house.
"It's put on by a lot of people in our community," volunteer Malinda Penberthy said. "We couldn't make it work, without a lot of help."
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