A new initiative aims to keep local food pantries full all year long.
Organizers said the mission of "Pine Belt Eats" is to bridge the gap between grocery stores and food pantries. The initiative was started by a group with the Leadership Pine Belt Class of 2017, part of the Area Development Partnership.
"When you're in the store shopping, pick up a can of whatever is on sale or whatever you're eating and then on your way out, just drop it in the bin," said Michelle Wilson-Stokes, a member of the class.
Wilson-Stokes said the "buy one, feed one" initiative creates a consumer-driven food supply system. She said the group met with local food pantries before putting together the project.
"They expressed a need," said Wilson-Stokes. "Things were really good at certain times of the year, during the holidays when everybody's making a donation or when schools have food drives. But there are other times, like the summer, when their shelves are empty and they struggle to feed the families in their area."
There are bins places in the front of Corner Market and Sunflower locations across the Pine Belt. Each location is paired with a food pantry, including Eagle's Nest, Christian Services, Petal's Children Task Force and Edwards Street Fellowship Center. Wilson-Stokes said the food drive is ongoing, with plans to continue to keep the shelves stocked for families in need.
"My one goal as a member was to do something that touched as many lives as possible for as long as possible," said Wilson-Stokes. "I feel better knowing that the people in my area, in the neighborhood that I live in, might eat today or tomorrow and I did something to help."
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