MARIETTA | Food pantry in search of a miracle | News
MARIETTA, Ga. -- In the Bible, Jesus twice fed thousands with just a few fish and loaves of bread. Pastor Sherwood Smith believes in those miracles.
He runs Disciple Mission Food Pantry at a small church, First Christian Church in Marietta, giving away groceries to more than 600 families a month across Cobb County.
And he definitely has more faith than he has money for food right now.
"We've totally run out of money. I don't have enough money to continue to purchase food," he said.
The demand in the last couple of years has doubled, with the pantry helping feed more than 22,000 people, Pastor Smith said.
But donations are way down.
When the current inventory of groceries is gone, there will be no more food to give.
"Our small congregation is, frankly, extended to the limit."
Multiply that food pantry in Marietta by 700 -- the number of agencies and ministries across 38 north Georgia counties that partner with the Atlanta Community Food Bank.
And the need they try to fill was up 34 percent this last fiscal year, according to Angie Clawson of the ACFB. She said that increased demand was on top of the 33 percent increase from the previous year.
The number of donors is about the same, but most people are donating less.
"I was in need of food today, and I thank God for the church being open in times of needs like these days and times," said Elnora Florence of Cobb County, who came to the pantry in Marietta for groceries for her three grandchildren.
The recession is so stubborn, Pastor Smith said. "It just won't go away."
Prior to the recession, he said, his church's food pantry was distributing about 150,000 pounds of food a year; it's now approaching 300,000 pounds of food this year.
"The basic criteria is, they come in and ask for it," Smith said. The church's mission is to serve Cobb County residents, but no one is turned away. It merely asks for a picture ID and for the Social Security number of everyone in the household receiving the groceries.
"We allow them to come one time a month, up to a maximum of six months out of the year," Smith said.
The reason for the decrease in donations is clear, he said.
"I think people were holding onto [their donations] because they were worried about helping their own families. We had a matching grant and we didn't even meet the whole matching grant this year . . . we're cutting back on the amount of food that we're distributing to the families. Normally I would have cereal and juice in every bag that we give out; we, frankly, can't afford it."
Pastor Smith hopes donors will come through one more time to restock the pantry -- one more miracle.
"So anybody that can give a few dollars, that will feed a small family for five days to a week," he said.