Dozens of people had come to Grace United Methodist Church in search of help feeding themselves and their families.
People waited in line for the Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana to distribute food during the monthly mobile food pantry visit. They stood patiently or sat in the church’s fellowship hall, staring at their phones or reading a newspaper.
They would have to wait 30 to 40 minutes before it was their turn to receive food. As Grace pastor Andy Kinsey watched, he wondered: What if there was a better way to use that time to further help those in need?
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For local residents who come to Grace United Methodist Church for the mobile pantry, not only will they receive food assistance, but they also can have basic medical needs fulfilled while receiving information on where to get additional help.
The church works with the Interchurch Food Pantry to bring the Gleaner’s mobile food bank to Franklin once per month. During those visits, officials also have recruited organizations such as the St. Thomas Clinic, Walgreens and the Lion’s Club to help with health care concerns people might have.
“I’ve got a captive audience. They’re not going anywhere, and they’re not doing anything while they wait,” Kinsey said. “It’s been a good thing, with people who have been willing to help. It’s not a clinic, but it’s help to prevent more serious health problems.”
Grace United Methodist Church has been working with the Interchurch Food Pantry to bring Gleaner’s mobile pantry in for the past three years. The program brings food to those who need it most, allowing them to choose an allotment of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy and other goods based on the size of their family.
But the health referral aspect is new, Kinsey said.
Last year, the church had hosted Walgreens to offer flu shots on Election Day. Since Grace United Methodist Church is a polling place, officials thought it would be a good opportunity to reach a large number of people at once.
That gave Kinsey an idea about how to provide more assistance.
He started asking around to see what kind of additional services the church could provide. That led him to the Franklin Lion’s Club.
The Lion’s Club International has an organizational focus on eye screening, and offered to come in during the May food pantry session to provide information and referrals to people who have eye or ear problems but don’t know where to go.
Officials were able to meet with about 40 people.
“They got referrals and then got their eyes checked, so that was a success,” Kinsey said.
Since that time, more and more services have been available. Health officials have been on hand to do blood pressure checks, St. Thomas Clinic handed out information on women’s health issues such as self-examinations for breast cancer.
Walgreens will be offering flu and pneumonia shots in the future.
People in need don’t know where to go to have their medical needs treated, and don’t have the money or insurance to just go to a doctor. Getting all of that information at one time is useful, Kinsey said.
Church volunteers have also put together health kits giving basic information on wellness and providing hygiene items such as soap and toothbrushes.
The hope is that as Grace United Methodist Church builds more relationships with health care providers or activists, they can provide more for the people who come to the church for food.
“It’s been developing. We’ve experimented this year, because the mobile pantry goes from April to September,” Kinsey said. “I’m thinking of other health needs, especially with children’s health, but at the moment, this is what we’ve done.”
Gleaner’s Mobile Food Truck
What: A program of Gleaner’s, one of Indiana’s largest food banks, to bring food assistance to communities and people in need. This one is arranged through a partnership with Grace United Methodist Church and the Interchurch Food Pantry.
When: 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 28
Where: Grace United Methodist Church, 1300 E. Adams Drive, Franklin
What to know: Sign in process, but advance registration is not needed. In addition to food assistance, people attending the session will be able to receive referrals and help with health-related issues.
Information: franklingrace.org or 317-736-7962.