The auditorium of the St. Paul United Church of Christ in Belleville was packed with food and volunteers Saturday morning as deliveries of donated food from the annual Boy Scouts Scouting for Food drive rolled in.
Jerry Messick, director of the Interfaith Food Pantry in Belleville, organized volunteers as they sorted and boxed canned and dry goods so they could be moved in an organized manner to the food pantry across the street from the church. The food pantry relies on the Scouting for Food event to stock its shelves for the winter months, just as it relies on the annual National Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger food drive for its large donation of food in the spring.
"It's looking pretty good this year," Messick said. "And we have a lot of space for it in the food pantry."
Messick looked around at the tables loaded with boxes of food and watched as still more food donations were brought in through the auditorium doors.
"I think it's a a little better this year than previous years," he added. "We hope this will last us to the first of February."
Fourteen Brownies from Girl Scout Troop 530 from Whiteside Elementary School volunteered at the food drive and helped sort cans of food as it arrived.
"I filled this whole box with green beans and peas and corn to help people who don't have food," said Kameron Gresham, 7, a second-grader at the school.
Troop members Keara Connolly and Taylor Richardson, both 7, said helping the hungry made them feel good and that they were doing the right thing.
"If people don't have food, they can die from hunger," Keara said.
Taylor echoed her friend, "People have to have food and this is for people who don't have food."
The food pantry is the cooperative effort of 10 area churches and serves the hungry in all of Belleville and Swansea and part of Shiloh.
In October, the pantry gave food to 641 needy families in those communities. On average, it gives 1,700 to 1,800 bags of food away a month, with about three to four bags going to a family, depending on the size. Each family receives about one week's worth of food and three meat entrees, Messick said.
November 2011 was one of the food pantry's largest months, with 650 families coming to the pantry hoping for a little help to put food on the table.
Donations are accepted at the pantry at 205 W. B St. from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. For more information about making a donation or volunteering at the pantry, call 355-9199.
Contact reporter Jennifer A. Bowen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2667.