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One-by-one, China Grove Elementary School students bundled in their jackets marched down South Franklin Street. The students were on their way to make food deliveries to the local mission.
About this time each year, the students, including the kindergartners, take canned and dry goods to Main Street Mission to restock the pantry.
Winter is a time when food is needed at the mission and other local food pantries and shelters.
“There are a lot of schools that donate each year and without those canned food drives, it would be hard to sustain,” said Executive Director Anne Corriher.
It took a couple of hours Friday morning for various classes to carry their items to Main Street Mission. Some of the students carried a canned good in each hand, while others had bags. Teachers and assistants also pulled wagons and a grocery cart loaded with food.
The students also decided to donate coats. It was unclear if the students reached a record 2,012 items.
Principal Jenny White said last year students collected 2,011 items.
Student Council President Rachel Lipe, 10, said students spread the word about the drive through posters and class presentations.
“It makes you very happy to think that you made a big change,” she said.
The in-kind gifts are a tremendous help, Corriher said.
Another food drive made it possible to put food on the pantry shelves earlier in the week.
South Rowan High students donated 3,000 cans of food and 131 children’s books.
The donation began with an idea from Woodmen of the World Lodge 111 in Landis to collect nonperishables for the Mission as part of its Christmas project.
South Rowan football coach Jason Rollins, who is a Woodmen member, challenged his students to donate to Main Street Mission.
Corriher said donations decrease in the winter, but the contributions from the students should carry the agency through the spring.
The agency provides food items to about 400 families a month.
The holidays are important at the China Grove agency. In fact, Main Street Mission gave 200 turkeys to families in need at Thanksgiving.
The mission not only receives goods from local schools, but more than 35 community and church partners provide food and other goods on a rotating basis.
Corriher said one south Rowan church held a fish fry and all of the proceeds were given to the mission.
The Salvation Army of Rowan County also has a food assistance program that provides food to 100 families a week, said Lt. Josh Morse.
“We just wrapped up our canned food drive, but we still need a lot,” Morse said.
The winter is a time families are in need, he said, but more so in the summer.
Summer is when people tend to forget about the food pantry, he said.
The agency relies on businesses, schools and individuals in the community to help fill the pantry shelves.
Representatives from F&M Bank recently donated money to the organization to buy food.
Rowan County Social Services maintains a food pantry that is not state mandated, said Director Donna Fayko.
The pantry assists families who are in the process of becoming eligible for the Foods and Nutrition Services, formerly Food Stamps. The pantry is a way to provide the families with food until their benefits become active.
“Our pantry has been filled several times via staff food drive competitions, local Girl Scouts having food drives and contributions from the community,” Fayko said.
Rowan Helping Ministries Executive Director Kyna Foster said Thanksgiving and Christmas are times of great need because those are the times people are trying to provide a special meal for families. Thanksgiving is also when the agency makes available turkeys and hams to families, she said.
Since the agency began receiving food through the Emergency Food Assistance Program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it has seen an increase in people turning to them for food. The USDA buys the food and ships it to eligible states based on its low-income and unemployed population.
Before the agency began receiving food through USDA it provided food to 35-45 people a day, which has now increased to 50-60 people, Foster said.
Throughout the year, churches, businesses and individuals donate food and other items to the shelter.
“We give away over 400,000 pounds of food a year or $600,000 worth of food,” Foster said.
The agency spends less on food with the help of Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina. Rowan Helping Ministries is also a partner agency of Second Harvest and pays about $25,000 on food.
Second Harvest supplies a network of almost 650 nonprofit agencies in 19 counties with food and grocery products.
Foster said food assistance is so in demand the agency doesn’t have enough volunteers to handle the high volume.
“When we don’t have enough volunteers to meet the demand sometimes families are waiting two hours,” she said.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.

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