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Community Impact: The Pantry at Hamilton Mill United Methodist Church

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, resulting in unprecedented economic challenges for many families, Hamilton Mill United Methodist Church’s food pantry adjusted how it distributes food to people in need.

For a decade, the Dacula-based food pantry has been providing a variety of fresh, frozen and canned foods during its weekly distributions.When people began to lose their income due to the pandemic, they turned to community resources, like Hamilton Mill UMC’s food pantry, to provide food for their families.

“It’s your neighbor,” said Ryan Jones, director of The Pantry at Hamilton Mill UMC. “It’s the people down the street who are facing difficulties economically.”

Suddenly, the food pantry went from serving an average of 180 families a week to 400 families a week. As a result of the growing community needs in response to the pandemic, the Jackson EMC Foundation recently awarded several organizations, including The Pantry at Hamilton Mill UMC, with emergency grants. The food pantry received an emergency grant for $2,500 to provide emergency food assistance in Barrow, Gwinnett and Hall counties.

“It was uplifting to have the Jackson EMC Foundation proactively reach out to us and ask how they could support us,” Jones said.

The emergency grant will allow The Pantry at Hamilton Mill UMC to purchase more food for people in need, according to Jones. With the grant funds, the food pantry can buy enough food to serve 625 families for a week.

As the need for the food pantry has grown during the pandemic, the organization has also faced the challenge of having to suport the weekly food distribution with fewer volunteers, Jones said. Many of the food pantry’s long-time volunteers have been unable to help due to their own risk factors, such as underlying medical conditions, during the pandemic.

While practicing social distancing among volunteers, the food pantry launched a drive-thru model to distribute food at the beginning of the pandemic. Vehicles line up in the church’s parking lot on Pine Road early each Saturday morning to receive food, according to Jones. Volunteers work in smaller groups to organize food The Pantry receives from itslocal community partners and distribute food on Saturdays. The Pantry is open every Saturday, from 8-11 a.m.

For more information about the Pantry at Hamilton Mill United Methodist Church, visit hmumc.org/thepantry.