Food Shelf Gains Strength in Jackson County
It wasn’t too long ago when Jackson County Food Shelf’s future was uncertain. But over the past couple of years, the staff and volunteers of Jackson County Food Shelf have made tremendous strides in serving hungry neighbors.
Tracey Schley, co-chair of the organization, said when she first came on board, things were tough. “Where we were at financially, we didn’t know how long we would be able to stay open,” Tracey said.
In the past year alone, Tracey said, Jackson County Food Shelf has implemented a choice pantry (allowing individuals to make decisions about what food they receive instead of getting a pre-determined box/bag of items), received a technology grant and increased the number of pounds of food any visitor can take home with them.
The food shelf also moved to a new location that provided them much-needed space to better serve their community.
In part, this success is due to Jackson County Food Shelf’s strong network. “I come away from conversations feeling very blessed to have the volunteers I have,” Tracey said. “I think what we do is really fantastic, working with people who care about other people.”
The food insecurity rate in Jackson County is 9.4 percent, 67 percent of whom are recorded to have incomes below what is required for SNAP (formerly food stamps). You can find more of this data about other counties on the Feeding America site.
What drives Tracey to keep the organization moving forward is her own struggle with hunger in her past.
“I personally went through a bad marriage and had a little girl,” Tracey said. “I didn’t know about this kind of support. I really struggled. I’ve made it a personal mission for myself to let people know this service exists.”
Tracey said Second Harvest Heartland helped make Jackson County Food Shelf’s recovery possible.
“Because of cost savings Second Harvest Heartland has provided us, we are now gaining strength,” Tracey said. “We’ve been able to go from 20-30 pounds per family [no matter what size] to 22 pounds per individual. The produce has been huge—we’ve been able to have people come weekly for produce.”
“We’ve been able to provide for our families more efficiently and better thanks to the partnership with Second Harvest Heartland,” Tracey added.
One of the most rewarding moments for Tracey in her time at Jackson County Food Shelf was when a particular man visited the shelf. He put “homeless” on his intake form and revealed he was a veteran. Together with other organizations in the community, Tracey and her team of staff and volunteers were able to get this man back on his feet. “We got that man back home,” Tracey said. “To me, that’s what you want to see, all the agencies working together.”
Like Tracey, we believe our work is not possible without collaboration. That’s why our mission is to “end hunger through community partnerships.” Learn how you can get involved.