Share Food Program needs more volunteers

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

A program started over a year ago in Linton that saves people money on groceries is in need of volunteers.

Program coordinator Jim Shepherd, a former Linton man now living in Bloomfield, said the Share Food Program provides high-quality food at low cost. It saves approximately 50 percent on the cost of certain foods.

"The program began (locally) in September of 2001," Shepherd noted, but has its ups and downs in the number of participants.

"It increased several months ago then began to decrease," he said. "One month we had 126 (food) units (sold), now we're running around the 60 or 70 mark."

Shepherd said he isn't sure of the reason for the decline over the last few months, but knows that gardens often supplement peoples' grocery needs during the summer months.

"Hopefully it will pick up again," he said.

After the food is pre-ordered by individuals each month, it's delivered to Linton from its home base in Peoria, Ill., then each order is packaged up and distributed by Shepherd and volunteers. Shepherd, who is disabled, needs more help on distribution days.

"(Volunteers) can show up on the 22nd around 2 p.m. to help get the units together and distribute or they can call me here at home for more information," Shepherd noted. "Depending on how large the truck is that day, it can take a couple of hours to put the units together, getting them ready to distribute, then an hour to distribute."

The sign-up deadline for next month's Share Food program is Nov. 6. Those interested can sign up at Linton City Hall. The food will be distributed Nov. 22 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Linton City Barn on South Main.

If someone who has ordered food fails to show up on distribution day, their money cannot be refunded.

The food is sold in units, each containing over 20 pounds of meat, vegetables and fruit. Meats are usually in one-pound packages, or just a little over. The menu varies each month. There are no canned goods.

November's Share Food menu includes, in the regular unit, a whole chicken, sausage, meat balls and one other meat item; walnuts, white potatoes and sweet potatoes, all for $16. An Extra Value unit can be added for another $13, which will include a 7 to 7 1/2-pound hickory smoked ham, spiral cut.

"Last year we saved people approximately $13,500 on food costs," Shepherd explained. "I hate to see this program go downhill."

Share Food is a faith-based community action program and affiliate of Share USA and World Share. In exchange for saving money on food, participants who are physically able are asked to do two hours' a month community service a month.

"Community service can mean being a deacon in a church, it can mean being a Sunday school teacher, being an usher and collecting the offering, visiting nursing homes, hospitals, or (helping with) volunteer programs, being a cheerleader sponsor at school, a number of things," said Shepherd.

"In order to keep the cost of the food down, they ask that volunteers come to the warehouse in Peoria, Ill., every 12 to 15 months," Shepherd said.

There the volunteers spend one day measuring and packaging food.

The program is administered by a not-for-profit, national Share Food co-op based in Peoria, Ill., which uses the power of buying in volume to save money, and passes the savings along to its participants. Share Food buys produce and other groceries by the semi truck load. It is an affiliate of Share USA and World Share.

Shepherd said there are "a lot of people who are very thankful for the program."

The food is especially helpful to the elderly, those on fixed income or the disabled, he noted, but is available to everyone. Income is not a factor.

"But this program is in danger of shutting down if volunteers don't come forward," Shepherd said.

Shepherd also is willing to speak with any civic group or organization interested in learning more about the program. He can be contacted at 384-8440.

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