Food aid a collaborative effort

Sgt. Main with the Iowa National Guard 248th Aviation Support Battalion stands ready to assist during the food delivery mission in Tama on July 9th. Darvin Graham/News Chronicle

Over 20,000 pounds of food was trucked in and distributed for those in need on Thursday, July 9 at the Tama Meskwaki Celebration Assembly of God Church in Tama.

The food was sourced and delivered by the Northeast Iowa Food Bank who also recruited 10 AmeriCorps volunteers to assist with distribution.

The Iowa National Guard 248th Aviation Support Battalion out of Waterloo also sent eight Soldiers to deliver pallets of food from the Food Bank to the church in Tama using their Load Handling System vehicles.

Setup for the food delivery began in Tama shortly after 8:00 a.m. on Thursday and didn’t conclude until noon. In total, 277 families were served throughout the morning with vehicles stretching down Jackson Street. Nearly all of the food that was brought in went back out to those in need.

The delivery line was set up in a way to promote social distancing with families driving into the church parking lot and having the groceries loaded into their vehicle by volunteers so as to limit person-to-person contact.

In each food delivery box included either turkey, ham, or chicken; two gallons of milk, assorted dry and canned goods, along with additional dairy products.

Pastor Kenny Mervin of the Tama Meskwaki Celebration Assembly of God Church reported that last Thursday’s food delivery was the largest such effort the church has helped facilitate since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March.

“We’re just thankful,” said Pastor Mervin. “We truly thank all of our volunteers. We believe that this food has been provided by the Lord and so we thank him for that. It’s been more than a blessing to do what we’ve been able to do.”

The first food delivery mission executed in Tama by the Northeast Iowa Food Bank and the Iowa National Guard took place in mid-May and served 150 families. The second time around in June, the quantity was increased to 240 and the need was still greater than the supply. The 277 boxes that were provided on Thursday reached the capacity of the Food Bank trucks and National Guard Load Handling System vehicles and also ran out before everyone had gone through the line.

Each time when the food boxes have run out and there are still people in line, the church has opened up its food pantry to provide everyone with something to return home with.

“It’s our desire that nobody in southern Tama County go hungry,” said Pastor Mervin.

The Tama Meskwaki Food Pantry serves individuals and families each week Monday-Thursday from 5:00-7:00 p.m. Pastor Mervin also mentioned there is usually a table with free food available outside the church for those who can’t make it to the normal pantry hours.

It is expected that there will be additional large food delivery missions taking place at the church in the coming months.