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SOS Food Pantry seeks volunteers

By Tricia Nelson
The Service Over Self (SOS) Food Pantry in Crystal Springs began as an emergency pantry operating from a closet at the police department and has evolved into a monthly operation housed in the back of the fire department on Harmony Road. For many years, it has helped the needy by providing frozen and non-perishable food. It is one of several pantries operating with the assistance of the Mississippi Food Network and serves the greater Crystal Springs area, as well as parts of the county not covered by other pantries.
Mississippi is second in the nation in food insecurity. There are at least 640,000 people, one out of five, in the state who are without reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. Many people struggle each day with having to choose whether to pay for a place to live, utilities, or for food. Many, including children, go to bed hungry. The summer months are especially critical since children are not in school where they can at least receive breakfast and lunch.
The organization is a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit with no paid staff. It runs strictly through the generous effort of volunteers and donations. The pantry is in desperate need of volunteers, especially on the days it distributes food to families, which is from 8:45 to 11 a.m. the second Monday of each month.
On the first Tuesday of each month, also at 8:45 a.m., volunteers gather to pack boxes of food to be distributed the following Monday, distribution day. It takes a few hours to organize, sort, and package the boxes. The pantry has packed up to 250 boxes at its peak, serving 400 people in the community.
Boxes are supplemented with items purchased by the pantry through monetary donations as well as donated food. It takes many volunteers to assist on both packing and distribution day. It is not a difficult task but one where the more volunteers, the better. The pantry is in desperate need of more people to help with these tasks.
There are guidelines established by the government as to who qualifies for assistance. For the most part, they are based upon state poverty levels. The income of the household and the number of individuals in the household are guiding factors. Those on SNAP and seniors also qualify.
The pantry serves a variety of people. There are those who are on fixed incomes, those who are in-between jobs and need some help, and those who simply do not make enough money. There are a number of reasons a person may be in need of assistance.
Several recipients of the pantry are multi-families, meaning adult children still living in the household with their senior parents and often the grandchildren as well. There is a daily struggle to make ends meet.
To volunteer, contact Christy Purser, director, at 601-955-4481. To make a tax-exempt, charitable contribution, send to SOS Food Pantry Treasurer, P.O. Box 995, Crystal Springs, MS 39059. Food drives and donations are always welcome.