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Helping feed the hungry: Food pantry hopes to bring community together to address problem
Kelsey Kruzich / Staff photo: Sydney Price adds cans of tuna to the corn sculpture.
Collin County is one of the wealthiest counties in the state, but census data shows that more than 55,000 county residents live below the poverty line. These residents are often faced with the unenviable task of choosing to pay their bills or put food on their family's table.
To help ease the burden on residents living in poverty, dozens of food banks are located throughout the county.
While each pantry can help individuals, better coordination between pantries, local governments and nonprofit organizations is needed to truly end the hunger problem in Collin County, experts say.
"We believe the impact of poverty is a community problem," said Rev. Janet Collinsworth, the executive director of Seven Loaves food pantry at St. Andrew United Methodist Church. "The problem in Plano and Collin County is too big for any one group or agency to tackle or even make a dent in. We are going to have to work together."
Since Seven Loaves opened in 2009, the pantry has provided 55,000 people with food, Collinsworth said. While the pantry will serve anyone in need, many clients are from the wealthier areas of the county.
"Fifty percent of the people we help live within six miles of St. Andrew in 75093, one of the wealthiest ZIP codes in the country," Collinsworth said, adding that these people often have nowhere else to go for their basic needs. "When we tell people that, they are astounded and ask where those people are. That just shows our society's tendency to overlook those in need."
To help bring awareness to the problem, Seven Loaves hosted a luncheon Thursday that brought together elected officials, nonprofits and community volunteers.
State Sen. Florence Shapiro, the luncheon's keynote speaker, admitted she was slightly embarrassed that she just recently became aware of how much of a problem hunger was in Collin County.
"We know that we are going through a very, very difficult time in this recession, the worst since the Great Depression" Shapiro said. "We are never really convinced it is right here in our own backyard."
Some of the youngest weekly volunteers at Seven Loaves are students from Prince of Peace Christian School. For the past three years, students from the school have collected food and brought it to the pantry each Thursday.
"We love volunteering," said Sydney Price, a 7th grader at Prince of Peace. "It is good to be able to help people and knowing that the food we collect is going to go to people who need it."
The students also pitched in to help during the luncheon, constructing a sculpture of a corn stalk out of canned goods that greeted attendees as they entered the church. The 500-plus cans of corn, peaches and tuna were purchased by students and will be donated to the pantry.
Shapiro closed her address by urging the entire Collin County community to come together to prevent the problem of homelessness and hunger from getting worse.
"Until we can help our fellow human beings, particularly in our community, make it in the next level of their lives, we shouldn't be resting," Shapiro said. "We don't need to rest. We need to work, we need to fight and we need to help them."