Rowan Helping Ministries says it will be more convenient USDA food distributor

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 10, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — The long lines that have typically accompanied the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food distribution in Rowan County are no more.
That’s because the program, which serves about 1,300 households each quarter, is now being run through Rowan Helping Ministries. It starts Monday.
“The really big thing is that folks do not have to show up here Monday morning and wait in line because the process is now designed to be able to give out food every day,” said Kyna Foster, executive director of Rowan Helping Ministries. “They can come when it’s convenient for them.
“I think that’s the most positive change. It will provide a better way to make this food available to people who need it.”
For more than a decade, the Rowan County Department of Social Services partnered with the Altrusa Club to facilitate the program.
But Social Services opted out of providing the program this year due to limited staffing and the need to focus on mandated programs.
“It is a voluntary program. DSS departments are not required to participate in it even though Rowan County has for many, many years,” said Pat Spears, income maintenance administrator for the Department of Social Services.
Spears said Rowan was one of a “handful of counties” in the state that still administered the program through Social Services rather than a feeding agency like the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina.
“With the increase in our mandatory programs, programs that we are required by law to administer and provide to Rowan County citizens … and with our staffing issues we determined that we would no longer be the intermediary for the program because it was not mandated and the program could still be offered to Rowan County residents,” she said. “We wanted to maximize our resources and focus on our programs.”
That’s where Rowan Helping Ministries comes in.
Foster said the agency already had the resources to take on the food distribution.
“We were kind of a logical choice to be able to do it,” she said. “We didn’t have to invent the wheel to be able to serve people.”
Since Rowan Helping Ministries Crisis Assistance Network is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, people will no longer have to brave lines in the cold or heat to wait for food. Instead, they can come pick it up anytime.
At this time, the food distribution will not be done at the agency’s West Rowan site in Mount Ulla.
Foster said the switch from a mass distribution is in line with many of the state’s other areas. She said only 13 counties still distribute Department of Agriculture commodities through quarterly distribution events.
Those who already receive food stamps or meet the income requirements qualify to receive food through the Department of Agriculture distribution. Income requirements vary depending on the size of the household. For an individual, it’s less than $21,780 per year and for a family of four, it’s less than $44,700 a year. Applications are available at Rowan Helping Ministries.
A number of community members have already helped get the food distribution off the ground.
Foster said Chris Bradshaw has donated space and a used freezer for storage. W.A. Brown & Sons employees John Costantino, Willie Melchor, Denver Thomas and Cedrick Phillips helped relocate and clean the freezer.
Students from North Rowan High School’s JROTC unit have helped unload 20 pallets of food and pre-packed 150 family size boxes.
And Salisbury resident Brenda Wood met with Nate Valentine, Rowan Helping Ministries’ food and clothing manager, to share what she’s learned through years of volunteering at the quarterly food distributions.
“I always like to say how blessed we are to have volunteers and to have folks who have helped with past distributions contact us,” Foster said. “Volunteers show the commitment the community has to helping people.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.

Click here to download the food distribution form.