About 10 years ago, Swifton First Assembly of God operated an informal food pantry to meet the needs of the Swifton community. Now, a decade later, the church is stepping up again.
The church hosts distributions every other Wednesday. Church volunteers pick up food from the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas in Jonesboro and bring it back to the church. More volunteers help unload the food, and the church's youth group works to pack up the food for distribution.
"I knew there was a need with COVID. We just didn't realize how big the need was," said Randy Smith, Church Secretary and Deacon for Swifton First Assembly of God." At our last distribution, there were people there an hour and a half before, already parking and waiting."
As many of the COVID relief measures put in place by state and federal governments expired, the need in communities like Swifton increased. "We have seen quite a few single parents and then some elderly that are having hardships meeting their monthly needs," said Smith. "I think the biggest thing was when the unemployment and the extended food stamps -- when that ended the need just kind of grew more."
Swifton First Assembly of God held their first distribution on September 30, 2020. In October alone, they served 74 households and 229 individuals; a sobering number when you consider that the population of Swifton is 735 people.
"When you consider that 31% of a town's population received food assistance in one month, it really puts the level of need in our area into perspective," said Christie Jordan, CEO for the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas. "We are grateful to Swifton First Assembly of God for serving their community."