In rural Mississippi County, just 5 miles from Blytheville, sits the small town of Gosnell. With little more than 3,100 inhabitants, the town of Gosnell sits in an area classified by the USDA as Low Access. This means that 33 percent of the population lives 10 or more miles from the nearest supermarket. Mississippi County has a food insecurity rate of 18.3 percent. This means 7,590 people in Mississippi County alone do not have reliable access to nutritious, fresh food.
"Gosnell is a very small community," said Christine Bennett, Pastor and Executive Director of the Naked Truth Training and Empowerment Center. "We have a Dollar General store, and we have a pharmacy now. We have a few things like the donut shop and Subway. But basically, people go to Blytheville -- they were going to Blytheville even for the [food] pantry until we came. Some people don't have transportation from out here."
In June 2022, Christine and her service-minded congregation stepped up to meet the needs of their neighbors.
"I started the pantry because I just saw the need -- people not having enough food, people running out of food before the end of the month, people that didn't have enough money to buy food," said Christine. "We're a service type of church -- we believe in helping."
Although the Food Pantry has only been open since June, the Naked Truth has been helping the communities of Blytheville and Gosnell since 1983. Christine's husband, Sam Bennet, Jr. founded the church nearly 40 years ago with the goal of sharing "the naked truth" of the Bible with others.
The pantry serves roughly 140 families monthly, but Christine says each time she visits the pantry, it seems there are more families than ever. This is a common occurrence at many pantries as inflation, higher food costs, and higher fuel prices impact low-income families and individuals, often leading them to face impossible decisions.
"Sometimes it's a matter of food or medicine, and a lot of times people are going to get something to eat," Christine said.
In an effort to support agencies facing increased need, the Food Bank works with agencies to expand their capacity. The Naked Truth recently received additional cold storage and shelving thanks to a grant from the Mississippi County Community Foundation.
"We get a lot of meat, which is a blessing. And we didn't have a place to store everything. It has been so essential that we have a place to keep frozen food," Christine said.
The Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas is so thankful for partners like the Naked Truth Training and Empowerment Center for their work meeting the needs of the Blytheville-Gosnell community.
"We're a small congregation, but we have a lot of people with big hearts, and it's just a blessing to have that kind of relationship and let other people see your vision and want to help you meet it," Christine said.