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'Supplies are dwindling': Franklin County churches step up to address food insecurity in rural communities during COVID-19

Springer said the director of the main food pantry his church serves told him there about seven to 10 families per day asking for assistance

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Mo. — Over the weekend, Franklin County became one of the first in the St. Louis area to allow some businesses to re-open, in an effort to gradually get the economy up and running. However, despite establishments being able to operate within certain guidelines, Pastor Marty Springer delivered his Sunday church service in the parking lot. 

Pastor Marty, as he prefers to be called, is the pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church in Beaufort. He said his church community, a congregation of about 200 people from rural communities in Franklin County, has embraced the transition to parking lot services well. 

"We're a community of stubborn Germans who don't like change," Springer said. "They've embraced the parking lot worship."

Springer said the new normal for his church doesn't just include worshiping from their vehicles but also ramping up their efforts to serve.

"The more we talk about the COVID-19, the more input I’m getting on how our food pantries in Franklin County are down to bare bones," Springer said. "People who never would have gone to a food pantry before are being forced to do that. As word funneled into the local churches who support them, we’ve really been beating the drum and trying to get as many donations as we can.”

Springer said his church, as well as others, collect donations to supply for the local food pantries year-round. However, he said the pantries have been hit with a swift uptick in demand as people are left without work and income. 

"Supplies are dwindling," Springer said. 

Churches in Franklin County began collecting more donations when conversations about COVID-19's impact began, according to Springer. However, he said the real-time impact created new vulnerabilities for many in the community and shines a light on how close many people are to needing help. 

"Their backs are against the wall," Springer said. "People who are suddenly unable to work are really coming on hard times and needing the services of the food pantry.”

Springer said the director of the main food pantry his church serves told him there about seven to 10 families per day asking for assistance. For a rural community, he said that number is "unprecedented."

While Springer said he doesn't want to use the word "overlooked", he said he believes some of the more rural communities can go without necessary assistance if they're competing for resources with communities that are more heavily populated, where there are more COVID cases and typically more poverty. 

"It’s the St. Louis city area that’s crying, 'Hey, we need the help', and they’re so focused on that, they may not get to the areas like this," Springer said. 

Springer said congregations like his are stepping up to help, and they welcome all donations. Springer said the greatest needs are for basic hygiene items and non-perishable food items that can make kid-friendly nutritious meals, like peanut butter and jelly. 

"We are not trying to take anything from any other area or food pantry," Springer said. "If you aren't already donating and want a food pantry to give to, you can donate here."

You can contact Springer by email at marspring1957@gmail.com or by calling 815-529-3884.

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