By Kathy Swaller, Board Member
Early every Monday, Thursday, and Friday mornings, if you’re in the neighborhood, you’ll see the Isaiah 58 Ministries truck and van heading out to our grocery partners to pick up food to share with ministry guests. A rotating team of volunteers and staff serve as drivers and loading assistants to make regularly scheduled stops at multiple Schnucks stores, Whole Foods, Ruler Foods, Starbucks, and Operation Food Search. At each location, the team will transfer the donations from the loading dock to the truck or van where the items are sorted by type (meat, deli, produce, dairy, shelf stable and bakery) and placed into dozens of banana boxes and cooler bags for transport back to the pantry. Upon arrival at the ministry mid-morning, the boxes are unloaded through the alley window directly into the sorting pantry. Volunteers and staff can count on pantry guests to jump in and help with the heavy lifting. Many hands really do make light work! Once inside the sorting pantry, an additional group of volunteers quickly organize the donations and stock the choice pantry, where guests can select the groceries to meet the needs of their families. Food items not needed for that day’s guests are stored in freezers, refrigerators, and storerooms for later distribution.
Fridays are special at Isaiah 58 Ministries. We call it Fresh Food Fridays. All food donations from our grocery store partners, picked up that morning by staff and volunteers in the ministry truck and van, are unloaded directly into Fellowship Hall, onto a dozen cafeteria tables organized by type (Deli, Meat, Dairy, Produce, and Bakery). Volunteers are on hand at each table to help our guests make their selections. If any guest has a birthday that week they get first choice at the bakery table – and are treated to a Happy Birthday serenade. As guests wait their turn, they can enjoy hot coffee or tea and home baked goodies, prepared by Isaiah 58 Ministries volunteers, at our hospitality table. Isaiah 58 Ministries is not only about sharing food to nourish the body; we also seek to nourish a sense of community among our guests, staff, volunteers, and supporters.
The regular grocery store donations, though abundant, are not enough to meet the needs of the community we serve; a need that has grown by 40% in the last year. Isaiah 58 Ministries also counts on supporters – churches, businesses, and individuals for a growing percentage of our resources. Our church and business supporters conduct ongoing and special food drives to share their abundance. Isaiah 58 Ministries’ website maintains a list (our Bag of Blessings) that supporters can consult to ensure that their donations are meeting a current need.