A food distribution event was held May 20 in the Niangua High School parking lot, thanks to the efforts of Crosslines of Springfield and the Niangua Community Food Pantry.
"We haven't had food drives," said Bonnie Looney, president of the Niangua Community Food Pantry. "There haven't been schools or churches open and no food drives. I realized I’m almost out of vegetables. I didn’t even have time to pray about it. Then I got a call from Crosslines to pick out groceries."
Tom Faulkner, director of Crosslines of Springfield, reached out to Looney and asked her if they could deliver the food there. When she found out about it, Looney said she couldn’t believe it.
"I called my husband and freaked out," said Looney. "He contacted the school district and asked them if we could use the parking lot. They said we could. I didn’t know how to get the word out, but somehow we did. There are 400 people in Niangua, and we’ve already served well over that from this event."
Crosslines provides direct food assistance and referral services to families and individuals in crisis in Greene County. Faulkner said the nonprofit organization’s service of distributing food to rural areas began with partnerships with local grocery stores.
"We were asked to put one of our food barrels in the grocery stores," said Faulkner. "We wanted to make sure that the food stayed local. We primarily serve the Greene County area, but back in 2012, it (Crosslines) started delivering food to rural areas through its mobile food truck."
With the pandemic, Faulkner said they felt it was important more than ever to make sure rural populations were served.
"We’ve been over to Aurora, Ozark, Pleasant Hope," said Faulkner. "We’re kind of going all sorts of different places to get food to the rural communities. We went to some places, like Ava, usually on a special occasion, but because of this situation we really wanted to make sure we got food pushed out to the families in these rural communities."
According to Faulkner, Crosslines delivered 16 pallets, which is roughly 15,000 pounds of food. The boxes have been put together with miscellaneous amounts of food, including peanut butter and jelly, spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, tuna, fresh produce and soups.
"It's just a nice kit for a family," said Faulkner. "What's interesting is that food has come from donors bringing it in. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent a truck from Salt Lake City, so there’s food from over there. Ozarks Food Harvest brought things, and the Ozarks Food Bank. It’s kind of neat to think about where all that food has come from."
Faulkner said Crosslines is 100% funded through private donations and doesn’t receive government grants to help provide services for the pantry.
"This is literally churches, individuals in the community and businesses who have come together and said they want to help," said Faulkner. "Convoy of Hope is another great partner of ours. They helped us out with the peanut butter and jelly bites, along with the fresh produce. Tyson also supplied the chicken and chicken liver. It has been a great partnership."
Volunteers came to the distribution event from Conway, Pleasant Hope, Marshfield, Niangua and Springfield. Lakyn Shelton of Conway said she wasn't expecting the large turnout, but she was happy to help.
"It's fun to be able to help out," said Shelton. "It also feels good to be able to do something for someone else."
Becky Kay of the Niangua Food Pantry kept a list of families going through the line. She said some of the vehicles picked up food for two or three families, which is something they see often in Niangua.
"There's a great need here in Niangua," said Kay. "I think this is a wonderful thing to help our families."