Food Box Program helps feed 50 plus a month; now it seeks help
By Becky Uehling
Once a month, more than 50 Perkins County families show up during the day at the United Methodist Church in Grant. They come for one thing—food.
Since 2013, the Perkins County Food Box Distribution Program has been a lifeline for many families in Perkins County, said volunteer Diana Pankonin.
“We hear many times from these families that this program is the only way they can successfully feed their families for the whole month. Some of these families even have small children,” she said.
Pankonin is the lead volunteer for the program started by former Grant UMC Pastor Nora Mendyk. The program is not totally run by the United Methodist Church. However, the UMC does serve as the fiscal manager for the organization.
Pankonin is the one who puts in the order for the food each month to the Food Bank of the Heartland. The Perkins County Food Box Distribution Program spends around $400 a month for 4,000 pounds of food. All of the money for the program comes from donations from individuals, businesses and organizations such as the Perkins County Community Foundation Fund, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Pinnacle Bank. Pankonin said the program is running low on money and will probably run out after August.
“We really need help from people if we are to keep it going,” she said.
The order to the Food Bank of the Heartland for the food is put in 10 days prior to the delivery date, which is usually the third Thursday of the month, she said.
The Food Bank of the Heartland was founded in 1981 and headquartered in Omaha. The organization distributes food to 535 food pantries, schools, emergency shelters and other nonprofit partners. They are the largest food bank in Nebraska and Iowa, serving 93 counties in the two-state region; Perkins County is one of them.
Fighting hunger is an ongoing, collaborative effort. The Food Bank works with individuals, organizations, food manufacturers and distributors, grocery stores, the USDA and Feeding America to procure food. The Food Bank also purchases food to supplement donations.
During 2017, the Food Bank of the Heartland distributed 22 million meals to nonprofit partners that have touched the lives of people in many communities. Food Box programs are also present in Lincoln, Chase and Keith counties, Pankonin said.
Pankonin said although she puts an order in for specific items, it just depends on what the Food Bank has that week when it comes to what the Perkins County program actually gets. Much of the food is donated by big box stores and grocers who may or may not have excess of the food that is requested.
“It is hit and miss,” Pankonin said.
She went on to say that the truck also usually brings them other items that were not ordered, but that the Food Bank warehouse has excess of and needs to move. These items are given to the distributors for free, Pankonin said.
The Food Bank delivers many types of food. From frozen items, to meat, bread, cereals, fresh fruits and vegetables, and canned goods. Those who come to the PC Food Box Distribution Program have a variety to choose from.
The PC program is open to anyone who lives in Perkins County. There is no criteria to who can take part in the program and who can’t, Pankonin said.
“We run the program on the honor system,” she said. “We have not seen much abuse of the program over the years.”
Other current volunteers for the program include Katy Miyamoto, Darrell Pierce and Keith and Doris Olsen. Others are also encouraged to volunteer their time to the program. The next PC Food Box Distribution will be on Thursday, July 19 from 2-4:30 p.m. at the UMC in Grant. The August distribution date is tentatively set for Thursday, Aug. 16.
Notification for the PC Food Box Distribution days will be posted on the Perkins County Post’s website. For more information about the PC Food Box Program, or to make a donation, contact Pankonin at 308-352-8251 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.