CROS Ministries launches mobile food pantry


Photo courtesy Leonard Brant Photography


In its first three months, the mobile food pantry served 860 persons, and 28 percent of those were children.
Palm Beach County’s newest food truck doesn’t serve tacos or gourmet fare; but it does serve locally sourced food, and its customers give it five stars.

It’s CROS Ministries’ new mobile food pantry, which delivers canned goods and fresh produce to neighborhoods in central Palm Beach and Martin counties.
 
Most people who hear Palm Beach think multi-million dollar real estate and A-list celebrities. That’s just along the coast. The interior of the county is a food desert.
 
In 1978, a group of United Methodist churches did something about it, forming CROS Ministries—Christians Reaching Out to Society. It has grown to become an interfaith effort.
 
CROS Ministries provides:
  • Hot meals seven days a week at its Caring Kitchen based at Cason United Methodist Church in Delray Beach;
  • Lunch and snacks at its nine-week summer camp, and
  • Food pantries at seven brick-and-mortar locations, including Lighthouse Food Pantry at Community United Methodist Church in Belle Glade.

The mobile unit was launched January, using donations from Bank of America, Florida Power & Light and United Way. The 18-foot refrigerated truck was retrofitted with racks that can be rolled into the parking lot where customers can choose the food they want.

Ruth Mageria, executive director of CROS Ministries.

In its first three months, it served 860 individuals, 28 percent of whom were children. It reaches an array of people in need: the homeless, the unemployed, the elderly and the working poor who experience food insecurity.

“We find that in Palm Beach County, many people are working but it’s not enough because the cost of living is so high,” executive director Ruth Mageria said. “They can’t make it last through the month. Sometimes, it’s a choice between buying food and paying the rent, or they use the food money to repair the car.”

Using Palm Beach’s hunger relief plan, CROS Ministries provides food assistance in targeted areas where there are gaps in service. It also makes food available in the evening and on weekends, when other services might not be available.

In Palm Beach County, 200,000 persons are considered food insecure.

“That means that at some point in the month, they will be without food,”  Mageria said. “That affects one in four children and one in seven senior citizens. When we think hunger, we think panhandlers. But we don’t see people making the choices of what to do with limited income.”

And Mageira said they also focus on the nutritional value of the food. CROS pantries provide fresh produce, some of it gleaned from the agricultural fields in the western part of the county.

Last year, 4,500 volunteers gleaned 527,356 pounds of produce.
Last year, 4,500 volunteers gleaned 527,356 pounds of produce—mangos, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, cabbage and radishes. Volunteers send produce headed for waste to area food banks, including CROS Ministries.

The mobile pantry sets up at church every Saturday morning and three Wednesday evenings a month. They are searching for more locations.
 
The mobile pantry serves every other week at St. Luke’s United Methodist in Lake Worth. Rev. Pierre Exantus said the church advertises the visits on its marquee and its bulletin. He also tries to get the word out by visiting with people waiting at the bus stop across the street from the church.
 
Rev. Shawn Allen of Church in the Palms in Greenacres said his congregation has supported CROS Ministries financially and with food drives for several years.
 
The mobile pantry now distributes food on Saturday mornings from the church’s parking lot, reaching about 45 families.
 
“It’s a super wise and efficient way to distribute food. Taking food to the people and avoid paying overhead is a really smart way to distribute food,” Allen said.
 
Volunteers from the church also invite the people who come for food to access other services in the community. That includes classes in English as a second language, computers, counseling and other services.
 
“I’m convinced that model could be extremely effective in preaching the gospel as word and deed,” Allen said.

—Lilla Ross is a freelance writer in Jacksonville.
Who CROS Ministries reached in 2018
  • 71,444 individuals, 35% of whom were children received food from seven food pantries. 
  • 41,645 meals served through the Caring Kitchen. 
  • 15,360 weekend bagged lunches distributed at Cason UMC. 
  • 527,356 pounds of fresh produce recovered by CROS Gleaning from local farms which was distributed to local food programs by our distribution partners (2017‐2018 gleaning season). 
  • 163 children attended CROS Camp, a summer program in focused on school readiness. 
  • 42 children participated in a two‐week Christmas camp. 
  • 336 chronically hungry elementary students received weekend bags of food through Nutrition in a Knapsack (2016‐ 2017 school year). 
  • 9,690 snacks were provided to children from two after-school programs in Delray Beach. 
  • 29 individuals at our Belle Glade Food Pantry received help to apply online for government benefits including SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, and temporary cash assistance

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