Feeding Adair County

A group of student volunteers at the food pantry. Several Truman organizations volunteer to serve. Submitted photo

Feeding America estimates that in the U.S. today, 13 million children face hunger — that’s one in six kids. Furthermore, the poverty rate in Missouri is at 14% and in Adair County it’s at 25.6%. This ranks them fourth out of 114 counties in Missouri in regards to poverty. 

Thankfully, the Pantry for Adair County, PAC, realized these daunting statistics and decided to do something about it. Joanne Jackson, president of PAC, said in 2013, local pastors came together with the common interest to end hunger in Adair County. 

In doing so, they opened a local food pantry that, within three years, was distributing food to about 130 households each month. In 2021, they fed 359 households monthly, breaking down to 845 individuals, 258 of which are under 18 years old. The year before, they saw a drastic increase in clients. 

“During the pandemic last year, we had over 500 families a month,” said Jackson.

In order to support the dire need  in the area, several churches around the area provide over 540,000 pounds of food, but the need in Adair County is 1.33 million pounds. 

Most of the food distributed by PAC comes from the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri. Walmart and Hy-Vee also contribute, and Jackson said that this summer, they received produce from Truman farm. 

 “We have been truly happy that Truman farm has been so supportive of us,” Jackson said. “Our clients have been truly blessed by the outpouring of nutritional food received from the TSU farm.”

In addition to the food brought by Truman organizations, several clubs come to volunteer at the pantry. Corbin Estes, public relations chair for Blue Key, said their organization aims to serve the community by volunteering, and they are eager to do so. He said that oftentimes, they don’t have enough spots for the members who want to volunteer.

Several other community-service based organizations at Truman help out, making a lasting impact on those they interact with.

Jackson expressed her gratitude for Blue Key members and was excited to talk about all that they do for the pantry

“They’re the guys who can put the big boxes up on the shelves,” said Jackson. She said they also help out by unloading the trucks, stocking, and bringing out food to the clients. 

In addition to Truman volunteers, two to three representatives from each of the six founding churches, as well as others from the community, come each week to help distribute food. 

Another opportunity to help out the pantry is to come up with recipe ideas.

The pantry recently received 500 ham hocks to give to their clients, and they put out a request on their Facebook page for boxes of cornbread mix and bags of beans so they could provide a whole meal idea.

“They gave us 500 ham hocks and people were like ‘we don’t know what to do with that, what is that,’ so we asked for cornbread mix and beans,” said Jackson. “When we told them what to do, [the clients] said ‘that’s wonderful, I love that!’”

Jackson also mentioned that PAC volunteers work together like a family to keep things organized and operating smoothly. On any given distribution day, as many as 15-20 people gather together and find jobs. 

No matter the volunteer, Jackson will find a job for them to do that will make a positive impact on the community.

“For those two hours, their overwhelming compassion is what keeps PAC running. You are not only struck by the number of households who are food insecure in Adair County, but you are provided with plenty of ways to help,” Jackson said.

Estes echoed these sentiments by expressing that the most rewarding part of serving the pantry is seeing the clients react to the amount of food given. He loves relieving the client’s worries, even for just a week, by giving them a bag of food.

He encourages others to reach out and serve the community by volunteering at the PAC not only because you are able to help hundreds of people, but you feel great about it afterwards.

  “You make someone’s whole week because now they don’t have to worry about buying food,” Estes said. 

The PAC is welcoming volunteers with open arms. They require prospective volunteers to fill out a form with their contact information and availability so they can get started as soon as possible.