The Montverde United Methodist Church’s Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry is located in a small town of 1,550 residents, tucked away outside the northeast end of Clermont in Lake County. In 2010, the church decided to expand their food ministry beyond preparing and distributing meals to homeless clients living in downtown Orlando, and established a partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank as the only emergency food pantry in their area. The residents of Montverde saw 27,500 pounds of food aid brought to their community during the pantry’s first full year of operation.
Today, Julie and Robert Bennett, with some help from an awesome team of volunteers, serve over 122,500 pounds of food to nearly 1,800 households per year. Their efforts have inspired local schools and organizations to coordinate food drives and prepare special birthday bags with cake mixes, icing, and candles for families unable to afford them. This past March, Montverde
United Methodist’s food pantry decided to do even more for their clients by hosting a Mobile Drop for the community. In just one afternoon, 236 individuals received 12,000 pounds of food!
The first community drop at Montverde United Methodist Church in Lake County was a big success,” noted Food Pantry Executive Director, Julie Bennett, “because of the insight we were able to gain from other agencies’ past experiences with food drops, and due to the training we received from Second Harvest, we were able to plan ahead and put together a drive-through pickup scenario that made the distribution quick and efficient.”
Bennett created sign-up sheets in advance and had nearly two dozen volunteers onsite, taking care of everything from loading vehicles or registering clients to traffic management and fixing lunch. “Our volunteers are the heart of everything we do, and this event was no exception; they rolled up their sleeves and got the food into our community with smiles and kind words.” By having clients remain in their cars, there was reduced foot traffic and the pickup line flowed very smooth. Volunteers at “distribution stations” asked the driver how many people were in their household and which items would they want. In this way, recipients received foods they would use in whatever amount they could store and serve to their families.
“Montverde UMC’s Food Pantry is grateful to the staff and donors at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, who brought this bounty of fresh food items into our rural area. It isn’t very often that we get fresh produce in bulk so we have enough for everyone,” said Bennett. “Our clients get very excited when the pallets are loaded with fresh fruit and vegetables–healthy foods–and it is our privilege to be able to champion good nutrition and give items they are excited to receive.”
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