OXFORD — Restocking the Anniston Soup Bowl is no easy task as far as Kim Beckett is concerned.
The executive director of the Soup Bowl said the nonprofit feeds around 150 needy people Monday through Friday for free with food from the nearest food bank — a building more than an hour away in Birmingham.
“It’s a full day,” Beckett said about restocking food. “With the travel time to Birmingham and having to wait until it's your turn then loading up ... it’s quite an ordeal.”
Starting in mid-June, though, getting food for the Soup Bowl might be as easy as taking a quick shopping trip to Oxford.
Another Anniston nonprofit, Feeding Alabama, is set to open its own food bank next month at 175 Sherman Drive in Oxford. Complete with industrial-sized freezers and plenty of warehouse space, the organization plans to offer easily accessible, low-cost food to nonprofits and charities in Calhoun and surrounding counties that feed the needy.
Tony Diez, director of Feeding Alabama, said charities can spend a lot of time and money trying to get enough food to supply their feeding programs.
“What we’re trying to accomplish is to support nonprofits so they aren’t trying to find food,” Diez said.
The issue is an even greater problem in Calhoun County, he said.
“This area is kind of a no man’s land for food banks,” Diez said. “You have to go to Birmingham or Auburn to get to one from here.”
The long distances are certainly difficult for local families who want to get food directly from those food banks, Diez said.
“Hauling the food back is hard, especially if you don’t have refrigeration,” Diez said.
The food bank will be housed in a 52,000-square-foot building where a company made coffins years ago. The nonprofit has since February installed several industrial-sized coolers and freezers to hold vegetables and meat products. The plan is to install more freezers as the food bank grows, he said.
The nonprofit will either buy the food in bulk or get it through donations.
Feeding Alabama is no stranger to helping feed the hungry. The nonprofit has for years overseen different summer feeding programs for children in Anniston using money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Diez said the bank won’t be giving food directly to the public, but local nonprofits are welcome to get as much as they need.
Beckett said the need for food for the poor is great in the area.
According to the nonprofit Feeding America, which isn’t associated with Feeding Alabama, 800,620 people in the state struggle with hunger, including one in four Alabama children.
“I’m really looking forward to them getting operational,” Beckett said of the food bank. “I think they will be a big help for the area.”
Shannon Jenkins, president and CEO of United Way of East Central Alabama, also said he thought the food bank would benefit the area. United Way provides donated money to various charities in the region, including those that feed the needy.
“I think the benefit of having that type of food bank in our community is that right now, our food pantries have to go long distances to make purchases,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said a food bank can also help fill in gaps for different types of foods needed by pantries.
“All of our food pantries depend on donations and there are times during the year when they’re trying to provide food that’s healthy,” he said. “Certainly they want to provide a good selection and that’s when a food bank can be really beneficial.”
To learn more about the Feeding Alabama food bank, call 256-624-6303. To donate money to Feeding Alabama, visit www.feedingalabamainc.com.