As a new year begins, Trinity Missionary Baptist Church is ready to begin serving the community again as the U.S. Department of Agriculture begins its fifth round of food purchases for those in need during the pandemic.
Trinity, located on Wall Street, has been a designated distribution site since the early days of the Farmers to Family Food Box Program in July 2020. The program was a response to the coronavirus pandemic to provide families with fresh produce, meat and dairy products as many were out of work because of the pandemic forcing many businesses to close.
Volunteers - both in and outside the county - unloaded the hundreds of pre-packed food boxes from the truck trailers each week as people drove through the parking lot to pick up a box. The line for food was so long that traffic stretched for miles as people waited to get food from the site, said Deacon Michael Choice, a coordinator from the church.
He said nearly 400 boxes a week for 21 weeks were being distributed at the site with a total of 8,400 boxes by November.
"The turnout was great," Choice said. "We saw that there was a need. People were hungry and needing food to survive. It was a blessing that we were able to try to help sustain them through this difficult time."
He had help with church volunteers and coordinators to deal with the heavy traffic coming to the site. With help from their own pastor, Larry C. Weston, Pastor Sammie Simmons from St. Mark Four Bridges Baptist in Sumter and other ministers contributing, the food box pickup was a success.
For five months, the church continued to distribute food until supplies stopped coming to the site in November, a week before Thanksgiving.
The last round of USDA Farmers to Families food box distribution was in October 2020. Then, the USDA purchased more than $463 million worth of food and was funded by $500 million - additional help made available through supplemental appropriations provided to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in the CARES Act.
The USDA restarted the Farmers to Families Food Box Program on Jan. 8 after Perdue announced they purchased an additional $1.5 billion worth of food in nationwide distribution. However, the church hasn't received any news about when those supplies will be coming to Sumter. With this fifth round, the church hopes someone will contact them soon so they can restart distributing food at their site in the coming months, knowing the importance of this program in the community.
Even if distribution doesn't start soon, they are still helping residents with any other needs, including informing their members of details of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and have continued virtual church services every Sunday. However, Choice said as soon as they hear the word, they will quickly inform the public.
"Hopefully, the USDA will allow us to start back with the food distribution," Choice said. "It was a blessing that we were able to try to help sustain them through this difficult time. It was a tremendous effort that we were able to help out the whole area. We know that we have only scratched the surface."
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