Millwood Presbyterian Church is no stranger to food. The church hosts a weekly farmers market that takes food stamps and the Rev. Craig Goodwin has a blog focused on food issues. So it was no stretch for the church to decide to host a mobile food distribution with Second Harvest this summer.
More than 11,000 pounds of food was distributed. “There were 150 that came,” Goodwin said. “We had a great turnout of volunteers from the church and from the community. That was kind of our test case.”
It was such a success that the church held another in November. Nearly 8,000 pounds of food was given to 189 families that included 692 people. Seeing the need, the congregation took the plunge and decided to host a free food distribution on the second Friday of every month.
“We were just having a conversation around the potential needs in West Valley,” said Goodwin. “In West Valley we don’t have any community resource centers.”
Second Harvest provides the truck and the food. Costs run about $2,000 per distribution and sites are usually asked to contribute about $600 of that. Goodwin has looked to the West Valley business community for sponsors to pay for the monthly cost. He’s lined up a few so far, but is still trying to sign up more.
The church also needs a steady supply of volunteers. During each distribution, food is unloaded from the truck, sorted into family-size amounts and stacked on 10 tables placed end to end in the church parking lot. It takes about 20 volunteers each time. Goodwin has had some interest from the West Valley School District in having students help out on a regular basis. During last week’s distribution, students from the River City Leadership Academy came to sort food and carry boxes.
The food distributions are not like a normal visit to a food bank. Families are limited to visiting a single food bank once every 30 days. Identification and documentation showing need are also required. But for a visit to a mobile food distribution like the one hosted by Millwood Presbyterian, there are no rules. Anyone who needs food can show up and receive some based on their family size. No appointments or documentation are necessary and it doesn’t count as a monthly food bank visit.
The Second Harvest truck contains several thousand pounds of food, Goodwin said. People always line up early to make sure they can receive food, but the church has never run out. In fact, families that go through the line later may find their allotment is more generous. “If there’s food left at the end, we just give it out,” he said. “We’ve always had enough.”
The food families receive varies depending on what Second Harvest has on hand, though there is usually some kind of fresh fruit or vegetable. Sometimes it’s potatoes, sometimes apples. “We’ve had some of the best looking shallots,” Goodwin said. “It’s always fresh.”
Providing food for those who need it is part of his church’s mission, he said. “It seems like exactly what we should be a part of as a congregation.”