by Michelle DeRusha
When Majors Harold and Lynneta Poff arrived at the North Platte, Neb., Corps in June 2019, Major Lynneta vowed the food pantry shelves would never be bare. Trusting God would provide, she declared, “If we give away the food we have, then God will supply us with more to give away.”
Her confidence in what she couldn’t see has proven true. Last year alone The Salvation Army in North Platte gave away more than 1 million pounds of food to individuals and families in need via the corps’ food pantry and produce distribution programs.
The abundance of food is the result of partnerships with Food Bank for the Heartland and the local Walmart store and distribution center. The corps typically receives a weekly semi-truckload of food from the distribution center, as well as weekly donations from Walmart.
“When a truck load is rejected at the distribution center because a pallet is damaged or mislabeled or because there is an overage or a mistake in the order, the driver is directed to contact us,” said Major Lynneta.
She also notes the corps has a good relationship with the truck stops along nearby Interstate 80, as well as with the North Platte Weigh Station.
“If a truck driver doesn’t get referred to us by the distribution center for some reason, they usually make their way to a truck stop or the weigh station to inquire about where they can ‘dump’ their load,” she explained. “The drivers then get referred to us. We take the load off their hands so they can get on the road again. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Food insecurity increased during the pandemic, resulting in more visitors to the corps’ pantry and weekly produce distributions.
“There have been a couple of times in the last year or so that our shelves have gotten sparse, but God has continued to bless us with additional food to give away to people in our community,” said Major Lynneta. “Sometimes we end up with an abundance of particular items—like mushrooms or bananas or cereal— but it always comes and goes, and people appreciate it.”
The corps’ food pantry is open three days a week. Families and individuals are eligible to visit once every 90 days (there are two other food pantries in town) and on average receive 50 pounds of food, including meat and fresh produce.
In addition, individuals and families in need can receive fresh produce and other perishables at the weekly distribution—which has been organized as a drive-thru event since the beginning of the pandemic last March—as often as needed. It’s not unusual for cars to be lined up for several blocks.
Giving away a million pounds of food in a year is no small task. The major credits the corps’ legion of generous volunteers for the success.
“We honestly could not do this without our volunteer force,” she said. “They truly have a passion for making sure people have food.”