A group of volunteers helping a local nonprofit feeding ministry and food broker handed out 1,300 boxes of food to help fight against food insecurity in central Arkansas.

I Feel the Need, Inc. has teamed up with several local ministries that have food banks to disperse food to families in need thanks to shipments provided on a weekly basis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided food to I Feel the Need organizers for four weeks in a row and likely will continue to do so for the next eight weeks, Shane Willbanks, the executive director of I Feel the Need, said.

“We’re not only helping our friends and neighbors in Faulkner County, but several others as well – halfway houses and church pantries,” Pastor Rennie Tarpley said, adding that volunteers were able to hand out food to about 15 ministries with food banks that would benefit people across central Arkansas.

Some of the ministries who collected food boxes for families in need drove to Conway from Cabot and Carlisle, Willbanks said.

“You think about these boxes being packed in Tulsa last week and God preordained exactly what car that each one was going into,” Willbanks said. “He preordained the family and when they were going to pull up. The way it works out is amazing to us.”

The food boxes provided through the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program include milk and other dairy products. This week, organizers also received a shipment of fruit and vegetables for families in need. Soul Food Café Mission organizers also donated sandwiches, fruit cups, salads and other items that were handed out on a first come, first served basis.

The Farmers to Families Food Box Program is part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program that allows the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to partner with national, regional and other local food suppliers that have been affected by restaurant closures – as well as other business shutdowns caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic – and purchase dairy, produce and meat products for families in need.

“This is the fourth truck in a row that we’ve received from the USDA, and as far as I know, this will continue for several weeks, if not months,” Willbanks told the Log Cabin Democrat. “No ID or documentation is required, just show up with room in your vehicle for us to load the food boxes.”

Families who participate in the free food event do not have to get out of their vehicles. Organizers load the food boxes either into the families’ trunk or back seat. Those who are able to drive thru the pick up line are also able to pick up food for other families who are unable to make it during the pick-up hours.

Pastor Tarpley said he was happy to help others in need and that he encourages anyone battling food insecurity to take advantage of the free food giveaway events.

“We are used to amazing things from God. In 72 years, I have not seen what I have seen in 2020. But what I have noticed as the world gets more challenging is that God continues to show up and show out fabulously,” Tarpley said. “We just want to be there for [those in need]. Some people ask us what we get out of this. We get peace of mind and happiness of helping our neighbors and friends. That’s what it’s all about.”

Organizers expect to hand out next week’s shipment of food beginning at 9 a.m. Friday, July 17, at Soul Food Café Mission, located at 1717 South Donaghey Ave. in Conway, on a first come, first served basis.

Staff writer Marisa Hicks can be reached at mhicks@thecabin.net

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