Olive Branch Food Pantry

Olive Branch Food Pantry volunteer Marie Shelton straightens canned goods on the shelf Tuesday morning, one of the two days that clients can come and collect food that they need.

As families gather around a table filled with food this Thanksgiving Day to give thanks for their blessings, there will be some families that will also gather around a table of food that may not look as bountiful.

At the same time, those families will be grateful they have even that much to serve for Thanksgiving and share in the holiday.

They are the people in DeSoto County and elsewhere that, for whatever reason, daily deal with issues that prevent them from filling their freezers, refrigerators and pantries with food items they need for a healthy life and well-being.

That is where food pantries, such as the Olive Branch Food Pantry, come in to fill the gap.

According to Pantry Administrator Sheila Sneed, the Olive Branch Food Pantry provides its clients with food stuffs twice a week, Tuesday mornings and again Thursday evenings.

“We serve anywhere from 200-250 people a month,” said Sneed.

Clients are allowed to visit once a month and get food stuffs, canned goods and the other items the pantry has available. They may also come weekly to get produce.

“We set our produce out in our in our front room and they get to shop for what they want,” Sneed explained. “I feel everyone eats different and you might like lettuce and I might not, so if we put it out in a bag and send it home with you, how much of that is being thrown away? We put it out here and they get to get whatever they want.”

The food comes from private donations and food drives, such as one being done in November by the Olive Branch Chamber’s Young Business Leaders. But Sneed added the two main providers for them on a regular basis are local stores Kroger and Walmart.

“We are on what is called the Feeding America program so every Monday we pick up from Walmart and hand out the produce on Tuesday,” said Sneed. “Nothing is going to waste any more. Thursdays, we pick up from Walmart and Kroger and that’s what we serve on Thursday nights.”

A sign at the pantry’s entrance indicates that clients should have proof of DeSoto County residency and Social Security information for all members of the same household.

However, Sneed added that if food is needed, no one should leave empty-handed.

“We are one of the few pantries that do not ask for income (information), because when we were going through the USDA guidelines, the senior citizens were the ones who were being cut out,” Sneed said. “We decided that as long as we have the donations coming in, whoever walks through the door and wants food, they’re going to get food.”

While November and December become the months where the most donations come in, Sneed said there are other times of the year where demand increases for food.

“This time of year it does pick up,” she said. “February, March and April are our slowest months, but it starts picking up after that. When school starts up, we usually get a great influx because people can’t buy school supplies and food at the same time. It’ll then slow down a little bit but come November and December it picks up again.”

But whatever time of year it is, Sneed, who has been with the Food Pantry for 10 years, is grateful that the pantry can assist those in need, adding, “I love my clients, it’s because of the clients that I have not quit.”

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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