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Mouths to feed in Morgan
Food banks fight to meet rising poverty, hunger demands
By Ben Montgomery for TNValleyNow.com
Gary Cosby Jr./TNValleyNow.com
Carpenter’s Cabinet food bank volunteers Billy Vest and Susie Cofield load up bags for clients Thursday in Falkville. The food bank said it has doubled the number of people it feeds every year since opening in 2010. Morgan County’s poverty level in 2011 was 17 percent.

Food banks in Morgan County say poverty and hunger are growing in the county, and they are fighting to keep up.

Carpenter’s Cabinet food bank in Falkville has doubled the number of people it feeds every year since it opened in 2010. The food bank fed 1,200 mouths in 2012, up from 660 in 2011 and 300 in 2010.

“We’ve tried to make it a good situation,” Carpenter’s Cabinet President Chris Wornick said. “We’re always looking for food donations, financial donations and volunteers.”

Another food bank, the Neighborhood Christian Center in Decatur, gave away 53,000 food items in 2012, up from 41,000 in 2011.

Morgan County’s poverty level in 2011 was 17 percent, up from 14 percent in 2010. Residents younger than 18 living under the poverty line was 27 percent in 2011, up from 21 percent in 2010. According to information from Carpenter clients during the past month, 79 percent had income at or below the poverty level. In the past year, 53 percent of its clients said they had to choose between food and utilities, 35 percent had to choose between food and paying rent or mortgage, and 46 percent had to choose between paying for food or medicine.

Wornick believes Carpenter’s Cabinet is prepared for an increase in hungry people, but the charity has come close to running out before. Its bank account once dipped as low as 27 cents.

Carpenter’s Cabinet has shelves for stocking food through 2015 and a commercial fridge and freezer.

It has strict rules about giving out food, including removing barcodes from packages to prevent drug addicts from returning the food to stores and using the money to buy drugs, and limiting handouts to once every three weeks.

“But we know every situation is different,” Wornick said.

Pamela Bolding, administrative director for Neighborhood Christian Center, said her center will hold more food drives. She said the center had to spend $3,000 a month during the first few months of the school year to keep food stores stocked.

“We’ve almost doubled what we spend on food,” Bolding said.

Bolding said the center used to feed about 20 families a day but now serves up to 35.

“It might be because there’s more awareness,” she said. “But the stories you hear are about people losing their jobs or having to take jobs that pay less.”

Wornick grew up in Chicago during hard times. Living briefly in poverty when he was 12 led him to pledge to help others if he ever had the means.

The charity had a rough beginning. Wornick didn’t have enough cash to purchase the Railroad Avenue building it now occupies. But the organizers found $5,000 in grant money and raised $11,500 in six weeks through word of mouth.

Now the charity plans to expand its operation to include clothing donations and Bible classes like Neighborhood Christian Center. Glenn Byrd, an outreach coordinator for the center, will teach at Carpenter’s Cabinet on Tuesdays.

Carpenter’s Cabinet distributes food on Tuesday mornings. Neighborhood Christian Center distributes on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Ben Montgomery can be reached at 256-340-2445 or ben@decaturdaily.com.

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