OREGON COUNTY -- Shannon and Oregon County are the only two counties in the state that the Ozark Food Harvest Mobile Food Pantry visits.
The concept is simple; a large beverage truck is loaded with food and toiletries in Springfield at the Ozarks Food Harvest warehouse and driven to an available parking lot, in this case the old elementary school at Thayer. People in need are invited to the food give-away by the host organization.
Oregon County Health Department Clerk Teri Wrenfrow said the first stop for the mobile pantry earlier this month was a success, with 176 people receiving food from the unit.
The mobile food pantry will be in Alton Feb. 8 at the Methodist Worship Center.
Wrenfrow said the mobile unit will alternate months in the county, returning to Thayer in March and back to Alton in April.
The mobile units will be in each community on commodity give-away days. Wrenfrow said this should help rural residents by not having to make extra trips into Thayer and Alton. "They can get their commodities and then visit the mobile food pantry," she said.
Ozarks Food Harvest also donates food to the Oregon County Food Pantry that distributes the commodities.
Last year 31,653 pounds of food was distributed in Oregon County. The value would amount to $53,177.
Across a 35-county area in southern Missouri served by Ozarks Food Harvest, 4.2 million pounds of food was distributed last year by 320 organizations. The Oregon County Food Pantry is operated by volunteers from local churches and organizations. The county health department is involved in the food pantry but is not the only supporter of the project.
Ozarks Food Harvest was established in 1983 as a joint effort between the Council of Churches of the Ozarks and the Southwest Missouri Office on Aging. According to the Ozarks Food Harvest main office in Springfield, over the past four years the office has seen a 44-percent increase in the request for food assistance.
Twenty-two percent of the people living in Oregon County are considered living in poverty. The Missouri child poverty percentage in the county is 28 percent.
These numbers are exceeded only by neighboring Shannon County which showed a slightly higher percentage in both areas.
Last year an average of 503 people a month were served by the county food pantry, operated by volunteers and the Oregon County Health Department. This amounted to 6,038 people.
Because of these statistics, Oregon County has been added to the Ozark Food Harvest's Mobile Food Program.
It costs $200 a month for the mobile food pantry to visit Oregon County. This is not a service paid for by the health department. It will be the responsibility of the Oregon County Food Pantry to make sure the cost is covered. Anyone who would like to make a donation toward the mobile food unit can do so at the Oregon County Health Department.