GROVETOWN, Ga. (WJBF) – A few CSRA food and clothing cupboards report seeing more people who need a little extra help. This comes amid the ongoing pandemic and inflation driving up the cost of living.
“Hey, how are you guys today?”
It’s a drive-in for food that will undoubtedly get families through just one meal.
“In the trunk? OK.”
Boxes filled with spaghetti sauce, rice, kidney beans, applesauce, soup, cereal and more, all placed in trunks as people made their way to the school’s mobile pantry Grovetown Primary. Journey Community Church organized the distribution, with clothing from their church, in partnership with Golden Harvest Food Bank.
“One in seven people in our community are struggling with hunger and we are definitely seeing the effects of the pandemic as people show up for the lines,” said Blakeley Bartee, social media manager for Golden Harvest Food Bank. . She added that Journey Community Church is one of many partner agencies helping provide people with the food they need. There were 200 boxes of food available on Tuesday, one for each family.
Along with the pandemic, the inflation rate hit a 40-year high of 7.5% last year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that consumer prices rose the most in fuel, with energy and vehicles not far behind. Last month, food prices soared 1%, pushing new faces into the need category.
“I’m like most people. I kept saying that I didn’t need any help. And then suddenly I said, wait a minute, I need help because of the pandemic, inflation, everything. Everyone needs help,” said Augusta resident Bill Pleasant.
Pleasant, a veteran and retired employee of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office joined his wife at the pantry to entertain after years of giving back to their own community. His wife also took advantage of the church clothes closet, a six or seven year project set up by the church and brought to the mobile pantry to complete it.
“We have just seen that people have clothing needs, whether for job interviews, whether for winter and the coldest months, whether for summer and being able to cool off. We just saw there was a lot of need,” said Allan Runner, executive pastor of Journey Community Church. He added that the church has a location in Richmond and Columbia counties. Organizers of the effort say that people there complete their needs on the second Saturday and Wednesday of every month.They have seen more families, sometimes 85 people at a time and at the South Augusta location they serve more homeless people who do not have need to provide an address to get food.
The increased need can be seen by the food flying off the shelves of the Fishes and Loaves Food Pantry of Harlem.
“Probably more with older people,” said Debbie Nunley, who is director of Food Pantry. “Our families with children, as you know, have received stimulus funds. Seniors, they tend to fall into the crack. They don’t get the extra stimulus money. They receive social security or maybe a small pension. And you have to decide if I do medicine or buy groceries.
Local organizations and businesses, such as DeFoor Realty, IGA of Harlem, ATTIC Treasures, and community residents, have helped fill the void. Debbie Nunely said she has also seen a change in the types of people in need since the pantry opened in September. They also now serve up to 100 people a month on Tuesdays and Fridays. And even if you don’t meet the income requirements, no one is turned away.
She added: “You just make a dollar or a few dollars more than the financial guideline, at least you go home with donated food, which is two big bags of food.”
And despite the stress that comes with rising costs, some find comfort in the little things.
Photojournalist: Gary Hipps