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Bethel AME feeds the community

Photo by Aaron Paden/ Bethel AME Church Food Pantry stores thousands of pounds of food to give away to the community twice a month.

Photo by Aaron Paden/
Bethel AME Church Food Pantry stores thousands of pounds of food to give away to the community twice a month.

For the past three years, Bethel AME Church has been handing out food to the community out of a little food pantry behind the church.

“We thought that there was a need for assistance of seniors in the community,” church member Stanford Qualls said. “We were going to start out small. Our goal was to reach 40 people a month. The first month, we met the 40. The next month, we doubled it. We just kind of kept going until we were where we are now.”

Twice a month, the Wednesday after the first Sunday and the Wednesday after the the third Sunday, volunteers for Bethel AME Church hand out food to around 130 families and up to 400 individuals. Families get between 20 and 50 pounds of food depending on the size of the family. Some of the food comes from the Mississippi Food Network, but much of it is supplied by the community from individuals, organizations, events and fundraisers like the Holiday Food Pantry Drive.

“We always need volunteers,” Qualls said. “On a good day, we need about six people in this area boxing in and out. Then we’ve got two people in the office working. So when we’re open we have about eight volunteers working. On Monday, we go and pick up supplies. We’ll have about 4,000 pounds coming in, so we need volunteers to help unload and stock the shelves. We do that twice a month.”

In addition to the bi-monthly food pantry, Bethel AME Church has also begun giving out bread every Saturday from 9:30 a.m. in cooperation with Sara Lee.

“They are donating it,” Qualls said. “[The amount] varies. On the average, it’s about 45,000 pounds per week. Now, we divide it up with three other pantries.”

Anyone who wants to donate or help out can contact Qualls at 601-748-1977.