Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Bethlehem Baptist food pantry was used to handing out 25 to 35 boxes of food to people in need.
In May, they averaged 391 cars per week, with people seeking food. Feeding America reports they’ve had an average increase of 70% since the pandemic began.
“Each car has two to six people per family,” explained Linda Stevens, who volunteers at the food pantry. “All socio-economic statuses you can think of are driving up.”
In March, the Mansfield church began loading cars in a drive-thru to make the process faster, loading boxes and bags of meat, vegetables and even cleaning supplies from the North Texas Food Bank, Tarrant Area Food Bank and Target.
“We partner with other food pantries and Common Ground,” Stevens said.
Volunteers hand out food in drive-thru
Each Wednesday from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., 20 to 30 volunteers gather at the 150-year-old church, the oldest African American church in Tarrant County, to hand out food, said Marcus Wilson, the church’s director of media. And even when the pandemic passes, the process might continue, he said.
“Look at the fellowship,” Wilson said. “Being stuck inside is draining. It’s nice to be together. It brings smiles.”
As cars move through under the portico at the church at 1188 W. Broad St., a volunteer meets them to find out how many families they are feeding, where they are from and if they have any special needs, like diapers.
People do not have to be from Mansfield or present any financial forms.
“We do ask them where they’re from so we can report it to whoever,” Wilson said. “But we’ll get you whatever you need.”
Please consider making a donation to Tarrant County Food Bank, North Texas Food Bank or Manna House if you are able as our area continues to struggle.