By Rob McDaniel
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Families in southeastern Kentucky who are struggling to pay for food and often don’t have enough to eat will soon get a little relief with a new resource available to their local food pantries.
God’s Pantry Food Bank (GPFB) held a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony Tuesday for their new Southeast Regional Distribution Center, located on East Fourth Street in London.
The facility was funded by a Community Development Block Grant and private donations and will provide food to places such as soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters, senior centers, day treatment facilities and childcare centers who rely on the London Distribution Center as their hub for receiving food that they distribute, free of charge, to families and individuals in need.
According to CEO Marian Guinn, in 2012 GPFB distributed around 24 million pounds of food and 8 million pounds of refrigerated foods such as fresh produce. Included in those totals are the eight participating Laurel County food pantries, which received 941,935 pounds of food from GPFB in 2012.
“This organization, when we think of how many people it’s going to help, it’s just staggering,“ said London Mayor Troy Rudder. “I’m so glad to have this distribution center in Laurel County.”
GPFB feeds one in seven people in the 50 counties it serves. The average income of a family who receives food from God’s Pantry Food Bank is $800 a month for a household of three.
The new distribution center is going to open up a new region of Kentucky to whom GPFB will be able to provide food.
“It’s going to serve probably an 11-county area of southeastern Kentucky,” Guinn said. “It will really help God’s Pantry Food Bank get more food out to our member agencies and ultimately to people in need in this area.”
The 10,000 square foot facility is expected to make delivering cold foods a reality by featuring a freezer that can hold up to 48 pallets of food, which is around 90,000 pounds.
U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said he believes London is the perfect location for a southeastern distribution center.
“The different organizations that actually deliver the food will be able to come here very handily on this good highway system that centers on London,” Rogers said. “It will make their job so much easier to not have to set a scheduled time to be here; they can come anytime Monday through Friday.”
Not only will the regional distribution make it easier for food pantries to get food to distribute to those in need, but it is also going to lessen the burden on the distribution center in Lexington.
Pantries from counties including Bell, Clay, Harlan, Jackson, Knox, Laurel, Leslie, McCreary, Pulaski, Rockcastle and Whitley will no longer have to make the trip to Lexington to get food.
Currently, GPFB would need to distribute 35 million pounds of food per year to meet their goal of fighting hunger across the state.
Food pantries in Laurel County who benefit from God’s Pantry are:
• Come-Unity Cooperative Care, London
• Cumberland River Comprehensive Care Centers, Corbin and London
• Faith Assembly Backpack Program, London
• Fed by Grace Food Pantry, London
• God’s Pantry Food Bank Senior Commodity Distribution Program, London
• Hart Baptist Feed the Need, London
• Helping Hands Dorthae Food Pantry, Corbin
• New Salem Food Pantry, Pittsburg.
Officials hope the new distribution center will be fully operational by early December and plan to open another distribution in Morehead sometime in 2014.