Although Grace Community Church has been distributing food to the Ontario community for over 30 years, Community Hunger Solution's partnership with them has been a more recent one.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, CHS had extra food and resources to distribute. This was in part because some pantries were temporarily moving away from perishable foods. Also, we had just begun receiving an additional type of non-sellable dairy from Organic Valley and Farms to Families boxes through the USDA. Knowing the pandemic was disrupting so much and many people were out of work, our program manager began cold calling several community organizations to learn if there were any hunger relief organizations that could utilize food resources.
"I had extra time because we were all told to stay home as much as possible, plus in May and June CHS is at our slowest. So I sat down with a map and my list of current partners and searched for community organizations in places where CHS didn't distribute. I'd call several places in a community until I got in touch with someone that could tell me who (if anyone) was doing hunger relief work in the area." - Jeanette Burlingame, Community Hunger Solutions' Program Manager
It was during those conversations that we were introduced to Grace Community Church.
The volunteer crew at Grace Community Church is small, but they know their community well, and they know who can use the extra resources. Over the years the number of people that they serve has varied greatly. Remaining flexible to the needs of the community is a priority for the church.
Once they started receiving perishable foods from CHS, they changed their systems. Most fresh fruits and vegetables require lots of refrigerator space, so the church adapted by making deliveries directly to the homes of those who needed the food.
"We do not have storage for perishables so we needed to get them into peoples hands as quickly as possible." - Pastor Bruce, Grace Community Church
On a normal Wednesday, a few vehicles will drive up to the church parking lot, unload the CHS van, and begin dispersing the boxes. The partnership with CHS has made the distributions much more frequent. Currently they bag up local fruits, vegetables, and dairy from CHS and combine it with non-perishable foods that they receive from other partners. Volunteers deliver the bags directly to people's homes every other week. So far the feedback has been very positive.
There is potential for another shift in the future. Pastor Bruce and his volunteers have discussed the idea of organizing a one-day pickup, where the church would set up a tent and families could stop by and gather what they need. These changes depend on the needs of the community, but staying alert to the needs and adjusting accordingly is always a part of the plan.
People who live in the greater Ontario area do have a few other options if they are seeking hunger relief. Many people utilize Westy Bethel Butikk and Cashton Cupboard. If you or anyone you know lives near Ontario and is food insecure, please do not hesitate to reach out to Grace Community Church at (608) 337-4656.