Springfield, MO

Log in Subscribe

Paid Advertising

Christian County Food Pantry Sees Numbers Climb Among Dual Income Families

Least of These

Posted online
Founded in 1998, Least Of These is the only full-service food pantry in Christian County and the number of people facing food insecurity who need their assistance is growing.
“Currently we’re seeing approximately 1,300 Christian County families per month,” said Executive Director Kristy Carter. In the first quarter of 2023, Least Of These has served 3,750 families, which is nearly 11,000 people. Those numbers are way up. “Our numbers grew during the worst of the pandemic, of course, but they continue to grow due to the high cost of food, fuel and rent,” said Carter. She also noted that more dual-income families are utilizing the pantry’s services. 
“These are folks with full-time jobs who just can’t make their income stretch to meet their basic needs,” said Carter. “These are people who never thought they would have to ask for help.” With that increase in more middle-class families needing assistance comes a drop in donations. “These are the people who used to donate to us,” said Carter. “We are definitely feeling the effects of them needing assistance or being on the brink of needing assistance.”
Least Of These provides 5-7 days’ worth of food per family per month which can help families stretch their monthly budgets so they can make ends meet. “That weeks’ worth of food can help families make it until the next paycheck,” said Carter. “It allows them to be able to put gas in the car so they can continue to go to work or to pay their rent to keep a roof over their heads. We try to bridge that gap for people who are unable to make ends meet for the first time in their lives.” The hope is that the supplemental food assistance provided by Least Of These will help prevent a snowball effect where people get in over their heads and eventually lose everything. 
Least Of These gets no government funding and instead relies on donations from individuals, businesses, churches and grantors. And they’re needed now more than ever. 
“Our numbers just continue to climb,” said Carter. The food pantry saw a 50% increase in the number of families seeking food assistance from 2021 to 2022. “People tend to be able to adjust when gas prices go up or when food prices go up,” said Carter. “Maybe it’s just a matter of cutting a few corners here and there, but if you’re adjusting for food and gas prices climbing simultaneously and then your rent gets raised it becomes overwhelming and has a negative impact on our community as a whole. That’s what we’re seeing.”
When asked how people can help Least Of These in their mission, Carter says it’s simple. “Donate. Volunteer. Advocate.” Money is the most efficient and effective donation because Least Of These turns every dollar given into ten dollars’ worth of food. Unique in the realm of food pantries, Least Of These is a choice pantry, meaning that clients can choose what they take home. Carter says this helps to eliminate waste and helps provide clients with a sense of dignity that most of us take for granted. “Just as we can pick what goes in our cabinets at home we want our clients to have that same choice,” said Carter, noting that it helps remove some of the stigma and shame that people often feel when visiting a food pantry or asking for help. Least Of These offers healthy, nutritious food options like fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy and meats in addition to the shelf-stable items.
Food is distributed via drive through at Least Of These headquarters in Ozark, Missouri every Monday, Wednesday and Friday with two additional mobile distributions per month, one in Clever and one in Chadwick. The mobile distribution centers were set up to meet the needs of people who couldn’t afford the gas money to get to the brick-and-mortar food pantry. In order to accommodate clients who work day jobs, the food pantry also offers evening hours for drive through pick up. “We’re working to meet people where they are,” said Carter. 
“Just because someone needs help with food does not mean they are less of a person than you or I, because someday it may be you or I,” said Carter, noting that many American families are one household emergency or medical emergency away from financial crisis. 


No comments on this story |
Please log in to add your comment
Editors' Pick
From the Ground Up: Crossway Baptist Church children’s wing

The congregation at Crossway Baptist Church is building a children’s wing at the west end of the church, and beginning in 2024, it will be home to a Christian academy.

Most Read
Update cookies preferences