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AMEN Food Pantry has been filling a need for 25 years

AMEN Food Pantry Facilitator John Cooper prepares food for distribution.

Staff photo by Brant Sappington

By Brant Sappington

Daily Corinthian

(This is part of a continuing series sharing the stories of programs, clubs and organizations in the community working to help others.)

While many families in Alcorn County will gather Thursday around tables filled with food, others wonder where their next meal will come from.

The AMEN Food Pantry has been helping fill that need for 25 years, providing struggling families with food to meet that most basic need.

It's a need that continues to grow, said pantry facilitator John Cooper. In 1993 the pantry served 91 families including 200 adults and 205 children. Last year the number had grown to 3,590 families representing 6,418 adults and 3,708 children.

"There a whole lot of need in this county. People are hurting," he said.

Those who come to the pantry for assistance represent a cross section of the community. Cooper said they see young families, people who have lost jobs and many senior citizens who are struggling to make it on tight fixed incomes.

The pantry provides food for those in Alcorn County with distribution each Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to noon at their building at 104B West Linden Street. People can receive help from the pantry once every three months and must meet income guidelines based on the federal poverty line. Cooper said it's extremely rare that anyone comes in who doesn't meet those guidelines which are on a sliding scale based on family size.

AMEN is an acronym standing for the Alcorn Ministry for Emergency Needs and is supported by donations from area churches as well as individuals and groups throughout the community. It's staffed entirely by volunteers, almost all of whom are retirees like Cooper who are trying to help make a difference.

He began working with AMEN seven years ago and fell in love with the ministry and its ability to make a direct impact on people's lives. After a series of health scares he said he believes he's meant to give back.

"God's keeping me around here for something," he said.

Cooper said they purchase much of their food through the Mid-South Food Bank, a Memphis-based non-profit that helps distribute food to food assistance providers throughout the region. They're able to purchase food from the food bank at a cost of 20 cents per pound. Each shipment includes a variety of items and they never know exactly what they'll receive.

They also depend heavily on donations of food from the community including churches and civic organizations. Monetary donations are also welcomed which can then be used to purchase items they aren't able to get donated.

The pantry facilitator said volunteers are also always needed to help unload shipments of food and prepare it for distribution.

For more information on the food pantry and how to get involved in making a difference, call 662-603-3788.