EMPTY: Local food pantry revamps its ministry to families

COLUMBIA CITY — Grace Lutheran Church has had a food pantry ministry for a number of decades, but a dwindling amount of donations is causing the church to come up with a different way to help people.Church officials said there has been a reduction in funds and donations to the amount of 75 percent, compared to last year.The church could have opted to close its doors completely, but an alternative will soon be offered. A voucher system, made in part by the Community Harvest Food Bank in Fort Wayne, is the church’s answer to the growing need to feed the hungry.Food pantry organizers said, “We hope it is a savings to the church. For the families who get a voucher, they will be able to shop at the food bank in Fort Wayne. This will give them more options and more food.”Currently, Grace Lutheran’s food pantry gives out approximately 10 to 12 lbs. of food twice a month. By utilizing the voucher, a family of three to four can get 50 lbs. of food a month from Fort Wayne.But the pantry will stay open for those who can’t make the trip to Fort Wayne, according to food pantry officials.The vouchers are not available as of yet, but the church hopes to obtain them soon. When the vouchers become available, families can stop by the food pantry on Wednesdays and Fridays from noon to 2 p.m. and obtain a voucher. To qualify for a voucher, families must reside in Whitley County and meet an income requirement. Since South Whitley operates its own pantry, residents there will not be served vouchers.Grace Lutheran Church served 9,000 people last year and the numbers look to be five percent higher for 2012. Other area food pantries have seen the same need.Victory Christian Fellowship is another church operating a food pantry in Columbia City. Pastor David Salyer said that between June and August, the church’s pantry served 3,000 people. The need has been so great, the church sought to create its own missions program called ImpAct. “Its a big bill, but through giving to the ImpAct Center and donations from other churches who don’t have a food pantry, we are making ends meet. It is hard to keep up, but we see the need and we say, ‘OK, God. You want us to do this, so we’re relying on you to provide.’”Salyer said that their food pantry provides more than just food. “We are taking time to love the people that come through here and pray for them. A family that came through our food pantry now is working and volunteering at the food pantry. We are making a difference.”Read the rest of the story in today's The Post & Mail