By D.L. White

While gas prices have soared over the past month with the escalation of conflict in Ukraine, of equal concern is the rising cost of food prices over the past few years. According to Department of Labor statistics food prices have been on the rise since 2012 (USDLS, 2012).

The USDA, reports a liberal average food cost per month for a family of four is $1,244. A moderate cost per month can run $861 or higher depending on dietary requirements and acquiring the recommended food items in the main food groups, e.g., meat/poultry, fruits and veggies, diary, breads and grains.

Families with an earned income more than $70,000 can spend 7.7 percent of their income on groceries and another 5.4 percent eating out prior to COVID (USDA, 2021).

This begs the question: what is a family of four making far less than $70,000 to do?

A positive catalyst in this unequal equation is the Pilgrim Rest Mobile Food Pantry, which provides quality food in all the food groups to any any family, regardless of income, that registers and shows on distribution day. And, it is all free.

“There are no income requirements to participate in the Mobile Pantry,” noted Rhoshawndra Carnes, the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church (PRBC) Outreach Ministry Leader and formerly director of family services at the church.

The New York native who earned a master’s in nonprofit studies from Arizona State University continued: “The Mobile Food Pantry has been in existence since 2012. In Decem- ber we will celebrate our tenth year. This was one of the programs we were able to implement early onunderstanding then food prices for families in general were rising.

“This program is a combined collaboration and partnership between PRBC, Pilgrim Rest Foundation and the St. Mary’s Food Bank. All the food is top quality and most importantly it contains generous food helpings in the seven food groups.”

On average 250 to 300 families per month benefit from the Mobile Food Pantry, according to Carnes, with an estimated 800 families served in November due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

“I come from a family of giving back.Iunderstandtheimportance of allowing people to operate and function in their gifts, talents, and skills. I have been extremely blessed to work with a core team of coordinators that really help with the functionality of the overall delivery of the Mobile Food Pantry,” Carnes said with a slight appreciative smile.

COVID-19 impacted life as we know it, and it certainly altered how the PRBC Mobile Food Pantry operated, Carnes noted.

“Initially the distribution was held inside our multi-purpose space. Families would come into the facility and use shopping carts to collect food items from the various stations. We were inside so weather was not an issue, rain, heat, etc.

“With the onset of COVID, we moved outside. Everyone wears a mask, gloves, a vest or apron. Safety is very important to us. We wantthosefamiliesparticipatingtobesafe as well as our volunteers,” she said.

“I have to give a big shout out to the various volunteer groups that come out,” shared Carnes, noting that the National Guard, Divine Nine fraternities and sororities, other church groups, organizations and individuals come out each month to assist in the Mobile Food Pantry.

“It is a collective effort and a labor of love for sure,” she said. “Last month (February) included in the distribution besides frozen meats, milk, veggies, eggs, bread there was a good size box of shrimp. There is usually a special item that is delivered.”

Carnes continued: “Again, there are no income requirements, families, students, singles, just contact us, register drive in on distribution day. Those that have taken advantage of this opportunity are usually pleasantly surprised actually shocked at the quality and quantity of items we load into their vehicles.”

The Pilgrim Rest Mobile Food Pantry is every fourth Saturday of the month from 11am-1pm in the Pilgrim Rest parking lot. Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church is located at 1401 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix, 85034. The crossroads for the parking lot are 15th and Jefferson streets.

Volunteer opportunities are available by sending an email to rcarnes@pilgrimrestphx.org or call PRBC at 602-258-0831.

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