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story.lead_photo.caption Lynn Atkins/The Weekly Vista Volunteers package some items to be distributed by the Shepherd's Food Pantry at the Bella Vista Lutheran Church last week. Anyone in need can get some groceries and hygiene items at either of the two food pantries run by Bella Vista Churches.

Thanksgiving dinners are already going out from Shepherd's Food Pantry at the Bella Vista Lutheran Church, or at least the ingredients are going out. Since people can request help from the pantry only once a month, each Friday in November, some Thanksgiving fixings go out, co-director of the pantry, John Peshek, explained.

Small families get a turkey breast, but large families get an entire turkey, he said. If the pantry runs out of turkeys, it may be able to get some chickens donated. There are also instant mashed potatoes, stuffing mix and canned vegetables.

The Shepherd’s Food Pantry

Bella Vista Lutheran Church

1990 Forest Hills Blvd.

Open Fridays, from 10 a.m. to noon

Oasis Food Pantry

Village Bible Church

1591 Forest Hills Blvd.

Open Wednesdays, from 10 a.m. to noon

1591 Forest Hills Blvd., Bella Vista, AR 72715

The Thanksgiving meal is in addition to the groceries that usually go out, he said.

At Oasis Food Pantry, inside Village Bible Church, the Thanksgiving dinner includes a ham, Tony White, the chairman of the pantry's oversight committee said. He explained that hams are easier to store. Along with the ham, some extra vegetables are provided and all of that goes out on Wednesday, Nov. 20, since the pantry will be closed the day before Thanksgiving.

Although there's no way to know for sure how many people will need help during the holiday season, Oasis plans on about 70 families. It doesn't limit the number of times a family can ask for help each month.

Shepherd's Food Pantry helps 240 to 300 families each month.

Both pantries get a lot of support from other churches and from civic groups in the area. Often the support is monetary, and that means the pantries can "buy" supplies from the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank or from Hope Distributing. Both organizations buy in bulk and offer a huge discount. For example, Peshek said the pantry paid only 18 cents a pound for turkeys.

Neither of the local pantries demands documentation to show there's a real need.

"If they tell us they need help with food, they get food," White said.

"A majority of the folks that come in here are living on $800 or $9oo of Social Security," Peshek said. "They can't live on that. They need to go to another pantry."

While he understands a few people will take advantage, Peshek believers at least 90 percent of the Food Bank's clients have a legitimate need.

In fact, during the short counseling session that's provided, Shepherd's Pantry provides contact information for other area panties.

Both pantries provide a short counseling session which often ends with a prayer.

"The table counselor will pray with anyone who is willing," White said, "But it is not required. Most people are happy for us to pray for them."

Other churches in the area support the two food pantries with both monetary donations that the pantry staff can spend at the food bank or sometimes with canned goods. Arvest Bank is also a supporter, with its annual Million Meals campaign.

Peshek said his organization almost always has a meat item and eggs to distribute each week.

Beside canned goods and the holiday meals, the pantries supply some hygiene products, homemade laundry detergent and diapers. Shepherd's Food Pantry often has fresh produce, and clients are allowed to chose what they can use. There's also bread that is close to its sell-by date.

Volunteers make the food pantries possible.

General News on 11/06/2019

Print Headline: Food pantries ready to help

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