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Food pantry spotlight: New Matamoras Food Pantry

The New Matamoras Food Pantry has been assisting residents for about 13 years.

Pastor Dennis Williams, who pastors New Matamoras United Methodist Church and Sardis UMC, and oversees Salem Hall UMC and Mount Olive UMC, has been director of the pantry for nearly seven years.

“I enjoy it,” he said. “It’s really rewarding.”

The pantry, located in the former elementary school, is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m the third Wednesday of the month.

“Until the pandemic, we were a choice pantry,” he explained. “But since, it’s now a drive-thru.”

With choice pantries, clients are able to pick out their own food. Williams said it was less wasteful than when they are forced to take food they might not eat.

“We surveyed people and made a list of everything we distributed and had them rate it,” he explained. “One was ‘I like it’ and 4 was ‘I won’t even eat it.'”

He said they used those ratings to determine what kinds of food they would carry. It allowed them to have a lot more variety, although some staple foods were rated high.

“Peanut butter for some reason,” Williams said. “Fruit and certain vegetables. Most didn’t like peas or sliced carrots. It varied quite a bit.”

He added it was surprising how many seniors liked Frosted Flakes and Fruit Loops.

The pantry, which serves 75 to 100 households a month, also has a miscellaneous section with non-food items, such as toothpaste.

“If someone is on food stamps, they can’t use them for these items,” he said.

Along with regular pre-packed boxes, they also distribute senior boxes the same day. They are given to people that are older than 60 who meet income qualifications. Williams said a lot of people get both the regular pantry box and the senior box.

Jim Webber, 81, is Williams’ main assistant. He’s volunteered at the pantry for the last two or three years.

“One of the ladies that was working there said they needed help,” he explained. “I went down and started out.”

He said at the time, it was pre-packed meals and he would carry them out to people’s vehicles. He then transitioned into doing paperwork for the pantry.

“You gotta keep the government happy,” he said.

He said he volunteers because he gets satisfaction from helping people.

Along with donations from the community, they get most of their food from the Logan Food Bank. From grocery stores, they get meat, produce, and bakery and deli items. The meat is pulled from the shelves and frozen before it’s donated to the pantry.

“And there’s Harvest of Hope,” Williams said. “All of their stuff is free.”

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

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