New changes to how food is distributed at the Lexington Mobile Food Pantry

A new alphabetical system is being used to serve patrons at the Mobile Foot Pantry at the middle school.

LEXINGTON — Patrons of the Mobile Food Pantry at the Lexington Middle School will need to note the changes to how food is distributed. An alphabetical rotation schedule has been put in place.

In the past patrons have come to Lexington Middle School and lined up at 2 p.m. to receive a number, they would then come back at 4 p.m. and line up according to their number.

Lexington Public Schools social worker Kristi O’Meara said this system had some issues, with many working parents feeling rushed to get in line first so they could make their shift. There was also the issue of long lines outside the building in all manner of weather.

The Mobile Food Pantry has now adopted an alphabetical rotation system, O’Meara said. Now the head of the household will present some form of identification to the volunteers and based on the first letter of their last name, they will be given a number and a start time.

Patrons without any identification must wait until 5:50 p.m. to receive a number.

The start time will vary depending on the month, ensuring everyone has a chance to be at the start of the line.

No information from the identification will taken and it will be kept confidential, O’Meara said, it is simply used to determine when they will get their number to start.

This system should keep the lines shorter, ensuring people are not out in the elements and to ensure fair access to the food provided.

If a patron missed their time in which their last name group was picking up food, they will be sent to the front of the line, but patrons are asked to arrive on time when it is time for their group.

The groups are broken down based on their last name. There are eight different groups,

A,B

C,D,E

F,G,H

I,J,K, L

M,N,O

P,Q,R

S,T,U

V,W,X,Y,Z

Start times will vary, for example, in January, the A,B group went first, followed by C,D,E. This coming month, the first group will be C,D,E, followed by F,G,H while the A,B group cycles to the bottom, and so on, until every group has had a chance to be first.

Additionally there are eight different start times for groups to park and get a number,

3:30 p.m.

3:50 p.m.

4:10 p.m.

4:30 p.m.

4:50 p.m.

5:10 p.m.

5:30 p.m.

5:50 p.m.

The full schedule for 2020 can be viewed on Lexington Public Schools website.

Patrons are advised to come at the appropriate times and not earlier, there will be no parking on the school groups before 3:30 p.m. to give students and staff time to leave the building and parking spaces.

The food of the Mobile Food Pantry is distributed by Food Bank for the Heartland, but handed out all by community volunteers.

Food stuffs which are generally carried include fresh produce, bakery items like bread or desserts, fruits, pasta, rice, pre-bagged items, etc. There are also sometimes milk products available.

Each household receives around 50 pounds of food, and for this reason, patrons are asked to bring their own boxes, totes, or any other kind of sturdy storage item, said O’Meara

Volunteers are what make the Mobile Food Pantry as effective as it is. Volunteers come from all over the community and include Lexington Middle School students, adults from community agencies, individuals or former patrons of the food pantry. Staff from Lexington Public School also take part in helping.

This year the Powerlifting and football teams are giving their time to help clean up after the event is over.

“Our success is based on our volunteers,” O’Meara.

People are encouraged to come out to the Mobile Food Pantry, as these winter months can be tough on families who have higher than normal utility bills, medical bills from flu season, etc.

O’Meara said the Mobile Food Pantry is open to anyone, all people need to bring is some form of identification.

In December 2019, the pantry served 274 households and last month, 237, O’Meara said.

The hours, which were previously 4 to 6 p.m. has been extended 30 more minutes, until 6:30 p.m. to give patrons more time going through the line.

“It really shows how the community comes together to provide for one another,” O’Meara said of the pantry and volunteers, “It really says a lot about the community.”

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