Bill McCall (truck to the right, left side), pastor of The Baptist Church at McAdory, helps unload the 1,600 boxes of fresh produce given to Bessemer-area churches by the Farmers to Families Food Box program to distribute to the community.
Photo by Jennifer Davis Rash

Bessemer Association partnerships help meet food needs in community

Sheila Tyson said she knows there is a lot of need in the state right now, and her goal is to help as many people as she can.

It all started with a phone call, and it’s continued with the help of local churches with the same goal.

Tyson, a commissioner for the Jefferson County Commission, said she got a call recently from someone in the area who was applying for a grant from the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program. Through the program, the USDA purchases fresh produce, dairy and meat products from suppliers whose workforce has been impacted by restaurant closures, then transports those food boxes to food banks, community and faith-based organizations and other nonprofits.

The person applying for the grant needed distribution points, and Tyson said her goal was to “cover every inch of the county.”

“I knew we had to try our best to put it in each community,” she said, noting that transportation can be tough for many people in the community, especially with limited funds to use for gas.

So Tyson reached out to local churches and organizations, including Barry Cosper, associational mission strategist for Bessemer Baptist Association, who enlisted the pastors in his association to help.

When the first delivery came May 21 to the Bessemer Civic Center, 1,600 of the 2,100 boxes were designated to be distributed by Bessemer Association churches. At the distribution sites, people are able to drive through and pick up boxes without leaving their cars.

Morris Johnson — pastor of Integrity Church, Hueytown — called it a “great opportunity to meet the needs in our community.”

“People are hurting right now, and we certainly want to meet that need because we know God is able, and He always comes up with a plan to meet people’s needs,” Johnson said.

Another distribution site, Hopewell Baptist Church on Jefferson Avenue in Birmingham, is also feeding 1,600 children a day to help out with hunger issues in the community, Cosper said.

He said that effort plus the food box program is a “tremendous” opportunity for “the Church to be seen as the Church.”

Jefferson County distribution sites will continue to receive shipments every week until June 30.

Hopes of expanding

And Tyson said hopefully it won’t end there — she’s planning to apply for another grant that would take the program through the end of December. Not only that, she’s helped other areas get grants of their own, including Talladega, Dallas, Wilcox, Perry and Tuscaloosa counties.