COLUMBIA — One 10-pound sack of potatoes. Three honeydew melons. Three cucumbers. Two packages of carrots. One bag of grapefruit. Plus some buns and tomatoes.
That's what each of the visitors who came to a mobile food pantry at Paquin Tower received Friday morning from The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri.
“Sharing food. Bringing hope,” was the slogan on sweatshirts worn by some of the workers at Paquin Tower, where the Food Bank took four tons of fresh fruit, vegetables and meat to distribute from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.. The mobile food pantry is a refrigerated truck donated this year by Kraft Foods.
Bobbie Kincade, director of development for the Food Bank, said this is the first year it has done mobile Christmas donations, and that Friday's event was the first time it has distributed food at Paquin Tower.
“We were blessed with a large donation of produce, and we are trying to give it out in Columbia, so here we are,” Kincade said.
John Wampler, regional coordinator for The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, said that even though Boone County has the lowest unemployment rate in its 32-county service area, there's still plenty of need.
“Even though times are tough we are not just sharing food, we are giving hope.” Wampler said. “We believe hope shines the brightest when the hour is darkest.”
“We are blessed to give it away,” Wampler said. “It’s nice.”
Teresa Kidwell, 50, said she has lived in Columbia two years and regularly visits the Food Bank.
“We wouldn’t be able to eat if we didn’t have it, so it helps,” Kidwell said, adding that she also relies on it for basic supplies such as medicine, toilet paper, paper towels and canned and boxed foods.
“I get what I can get, and sometimes I bring it to others,” Kidwell said.
Paquin Tower resident Marjorie Miller, 85, said the donations will help her make a proper Christmas dinner for visitors she expects Sunday afternoon.
“People do a lot for me, so it’s a little thing I can do for them,” Miller said.
Joyce Hyde, another Paquin resident, said the mobile food pantry was particularly helpful this month because her food stamp benefits were down.
Charlann Peavler, who helps manage Paquin Tower for the Columbia Housing Authority, said the Food Bank called her directly to set up the event.
“It’s awesome they thought about us and our location to help benefit the residents and anyone that’s around,” Peavler said. She hopes to have the food pantry back next Christmas season.
Kincade said she, too, hopes to make it an annual stop.
“It’s a good thing,” Peavler said. “This helps our residents get through the holiday time.”
Volunteers at the Food Bank also made Christmas cards and brought them to Paquin Tower for the residents to enjoy. They also brought food donations to the rooms of residents who were unable to collect and carry the items.
“This is why we do what we do, to see the smiles on their faces,” Kincade said. “It’s rewarding to come here, meet the people and see them so thankful for the food.”
The Food Bank feeds more than 100,000 people every month, and that's not counting those helped by special distributions.
“This (event) today is just an extra blessing,” Kincade said.
Anyone who would like more information about The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri can call 474-1020 or go to its website.