Rural Missouri - July 2021 - 44

RM | NEIGHBORS
" In less than two hours we'd
given out all 880 boxes of food, " says
Tonie, noting they only shared the
information by word-of-mouth. " That
defi nitely showed us the need for food
was greater than we thought. "
Pastor Larry Hopkins, many of
his small congregation at the Center
Grove Baptist Church and others in
the community rallied to help start
what is now a once-a-month mobile
food pantry held on the church
property in Moody.
Federal funds have allowed
the church to receive food staples
provided through Ozarks Food
Harvest. Since last fall, federal dollars
have covered the $1,000 needed to
provide food boxes to their small
community, but the group plans to
cover the expense somehow if funds
run dry.
The litt le town
that could
Neighbors come together
to fi ght hunger
by Heather Berry
hberry@ruralmissouri.coop
T
onie Lott will tell you the idea
of a mobile food pantry came
from her daughter, Jaydin.
The then-8-year-old came
home from school one day, grabbed a
bag and headed straight to the foodlined
shelves in their kitchen.
" I asked her what she was doing
and she told me, 'One of my friends
at school told me her family doesn't
have any food. I want to give her
some,' " says Tonie, tears fi lling her
eyes at the recollection.
44 RURAL MISSOURI | JULY 2021
" There we were in the middle of a
pandemic and it broke my heart to
hear that a child was worried about
their family not having food, " says
the mother. " When we got that need
taken care of, we thought, ' There's got
to be more people in the area in need
just like them.' "
At the suggestion of a friend, Tonie
began reaching out to places like
Convoy of Hope to see how they could
help other families near their Howell
County town of Moody, just miles
from the Missouri-Arkansas line.
Convoy of Hope responded immediately
with food for dispersal.
While the church is the base for
the mobile pantry, it takes a village
of friends and family to put the plan
together. Many volunteers drive from
miles around to help load the cars as
they drive through on food pantry day.
" Our youngest volunteer is 9 years
old and the oldest is 83, " says Tonie,
a member of Howell-Oregon Electric
Cooperative. " We couldn't do it
without our great team. "
During the mobile food pantry in
late April, the group was able to offer
food to 225 families from within a 50mile
radius of Moody, population 348.
Many of those receiving food don't
have the means to drive farther for
assistance. And when the shelves are
bare, many are dependent on friends
and neighbors for food or simply do
without.
" Resources were stretched beyond
measure when the pandemic hit
last year. A mobile food pantry like
this can make a huge difference to a
family who might wonder where their
next meal is coming from, " Tonie
says, estimating the pantry currently
helps feed 1,000 people each month.
On food pantry day, volunteers
arrive at the church around 8 a.m.,
on a date which is selected by Ozarks
Food Harvest, usually falling the last
week of the month. When the box
truck arrives, pallets of canned goods,
bread, fresh produce, milk and more
are unloaded in a small building at
the church.
" We needed a building to work out
of, so the church poured concrete and

Rural Missouri - July 2021

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