ROGERSVILLE — For about the past year, the food has been going out faster than it's coming back in, forcing Rogersville's Of One Accord ministry’s food pantry to tighten its belts at each of the three locations.
That's why the ministry is asking for help from the community to restock its shelves and help it get through the holidays and winter months, which are the most demanding on the food pantries.
Of One Accord (OOA) has food pantries in Rogersville, Church Hill and Sneedville.
Wednesday is the next food basket pickup day, and after those pickups, OOA’s food pantry in Rogersville will be out of nutritious food: canned items, frozen meats, etc.
Trucks are out gathering food donations constantly, and a new delivery is expected Wednesday evening. But they don’t know what that’s going to be.
Mickey Wilcox, who coordinates the ministry's Operation Good Neighbor program, said they can't count on Wednesday’s delivery to meet the demand for the next food basket pickup day.
"It's going out faster than it's coming in, and we've had to start downsizing the size of our food baskets," Wilcox said. "The biggest impact we've seen, with all the recent hurricane disasters, is that Feeding America and Second Harvest have been diverting food to those (disaster) areas. ... Because we have a truck coming Wednesday, it's hand-to-mouth. It's day-to-day. If we don't receive anything Wednesday we will be out."
Adding to the shortage, last year’s Boy Scouts food drive was down a little, and regular Walmart donations, which are also a crucial part of the OOA pantry program, are also down about 1,000 pounds per month.
In 2016, OOA served a total of 33,000 families in Hawkins and Hancock counties, which averages about 635 families served per week. But the demand has been rising steadily.
Last month, OOA served 490 families from its Rogersville pantry alone.
Last year, OOA provided families with 1.3 million pounds of food. As of Oct. 1, it was at 987,000 with October, and the two biggest months of the year in November and December still to be accounted for.
OOA serves low-income families, many of which are on food stamps or other subsidies. They're able to spread that out for about three weeks, Wilcox said, but it's that fourth week of the month that they run out of food.
As of yet, OOA pantries haven't had to turn anybody away. But it's getting close to that point.
"We have very little nutritious food right now," Wilcox said. "Very little canned food. So our food boxes are filled with a lot of filler stuff. What we need is canned goods."
Wilcox added, "Drop them off (at the Shepherd Center). We'll be glad to take them in, and we will thank you as lavishly as we can. Churches, organizations, businesses — feel free to do a food drive. We will be glad to bring over donation barrels or to coordinate a drive for your church or business."
OOA Director Sheldon Livesay said the pantries also rely heavily on the Boy Scouts food drive, which starts in about two weeks.
"I know that agencies throughout the Tri-Cities area depend on those donations to come in to help stock their shelves through the winter time," Livesay said. "If that food doesn't come in, we're sunk. Many of us don't have the resources to go out and buy what that food would have amounted to. We really need help from the community. If every household contributes just two or three cans, a dozen cans, whatever you can afford at the grocery store, putting those out and letting the Boy Scouts pick them up really makes a difference."