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The Carthage Press
  • Hundreds seek help at River Street Food Pantry

  • For Jennifer Thompson and her family, who live in Carthage, the monthly and weekly food distribution events at the River Street Food Pantry are a Godsend as she searches for a job.
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  • For Jennifer Thompson and her family, who live in Carthage, the monthly and weekly food distribution events at the River Street Food Pantry are a Godsend as she searches for a job.
    “This means a lot,” Thompson said as she pushed a shopping cart around the fenced in lot at the River Street Food Pantry's building on North River Street between the railroad tracks and Missouri Highway 96.
    “This is the only food we have to eat,” Thompson said. “I live next door to my mom and she makes too much money on Social Security to qualify for food stamps and I'm trying to look for a job, but if everything doesn't fall into place, like transportation and other things, it's hard to get a job. Family is there to help, but it's tough when the family also has needs. You have to rely on the help of strangers like this.”
    Thompson was one of hundreds of people who lined up for a monthly distribution at River Street Food Pantry of food provided by Springfield's Ozarks Food Harvest.
    For the past three months, the Ozarks Food Harvest has sent a tractor trailer loaded with food for needy families, and the number of families coming for the assistance has grown, according to River Street Food Pantry Director Regina Shank.
    Shank said 390 families signed up to receive food from the June monthly distribution on Thursday and more than 300 had actually showed up less than two hours after the gates opened, with a line through the parking lot and along north River Street.
    This monthly distribution is in addition to the weekly meals and distributions, held every Wednesday at River Street Food Pantry.
    “Until I started this food pantry, I had no idea of the need in this city,” Shank said. “My needs were met and I assumed everyone's needs were met, but all of a sudden, when we opened the pantry, people started showing up. It was almost overwhelming the needs that started to surface.”
    Shank estimated that everyone who came to Thursday's distribution received about $75 worth of food, including eggs, evaporated milk, canned vegetables, sandwich meat, frozen meat, bread, baked goods, packaged breakfast bars, potatoes, macaroni and cheese and other items.
    “The need is just huge,” Shank said. “This event is called a mobile food pantry. We also have our weekly food pantry and meals and we served over 200 people at that event last week.”
    Shank said people may talk about an economic recovery, but it's an illusion for most people. She said the River Street Food Pantry helps with food, but it also tries to help people better themselves.
    “We've had classes on nutrition, on finances and we're getting ready to do one on health and hygiene,” Shank said. “We feel the need to help people to raise themselves in life.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Shank said she knows many people in Southwest Missouri look down on those who seek help from food pantries and other assistance programs, but she feels that most of the needs are genuine and most of the people seeking help would rather be working and supporting themselves and giving to others rather than receiving assistance.
    “You can be a taker or a receiver,” Shank said. “A taker takes and wants more, while a receiver receives help with a thankful heart. That's most of the people who come to River Street.”

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