In the face of federal reduced federal aid, the Morgan County community is taking up the slack to help take care of its own.
In October 2011, the West Central Community Action Agency announced that it would no longer be able to host the monthly food distribution for Morgan County due to budget cuts.
With local churches of the Versailles area Ministerial Alliance already assisting with the distribution, alliance members decided to take on the task and organized a separate group to operate it — Food for Morgan County (F4MC).
Alliance churches and members from other communities in the county were appointed to a new board of directors and a new 501-c3 non-profit was formed. Training was provided by The Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri, and the Family Worship Center in Versailles offered the use of its gym and parking lot for the new distribution center.
As F4MC officially took over operations in December 2011, the initial goal was to simply continue the service provided by West Central. Over a year later, the grassroots organization has met that goal and more.
With greater local resources, F4MC is providing more and better food to more people at its monthly distribution. While the food center is in Versailles, all qualifying residents of Morgan County are served.
The organization has provided food to an average of 325 families per month over the last three months, according to board member David Hope of Versailles.
"The way the economy, there are more people in need," Hope said. "Groceries are going up and income is going down, so we're thrilled to help the community as much as we can. We've grown it tremendously over the last year."
More than 700 households have received food at least one time, according to volunteer Linda Lagergren.
This is not emergency food, but food that supplements what the families can afford to buy or use with food stamps. Clients range from infants to seniors with a specially allocated distribution for seniors through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
F4MC is also getting more and more volunteers to help on distribution day as well as pick up food throughout the month as it's donated and then warehoused at a local church's facility. There were 56 volunteers in March.
Many of the volunteers are retirees who got involved through their church, and some of the volunteers have need of the service themselves, says Lagergren.
"It's not them and us. It's just us," she says.
F4MC has been able to seek out more food donations thanks to the large gym space. Not only does the organization receive food from the Food Bank, it also receives food contributions from Wal-Mart in Versailles, local produce growers and other local sources, which has the side benefit of increasing the nutritional value of the food as well.
Page 2 of 2 - The overall operations are also more systemic and efficient with registration done electronically, an indoor waiting room and other program information offered to clients during the waiting period.
After registration, clients get a shopping cart and receive foodstuffs based on income qualifications. Everyone in need receives food even if they don't qualify for USDA commodities.
The F4MC distribution is held the first Tuesday of every month from 1-6 p.m. The Family Worship Center, where distribution is held, is located at 1000 Jones Ave. in Versailles — near Pizza Hut. People must bring social security cards for each person wishing to participate and a proof of residency to register. Clients are asked to bring their containers.
The next distribution day for F4MC will be May 7.