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By Connie Leinbach
Ocracoke’s official food bank has been up and running since January.
The Bread of Life Food Pantry inside the Ocracoke Assembly of God Church on Lighthouse Road has combined the leftover provisions from the United Methodist Church’s Hurricane Matthew relief efforts last fall with some items donated by the Lifeline Food Pantry in Rodanthe and the AOG’s cache of items.
AOG Pastor Ivey Belch said Ocracoke Island Realty’s Christmas food drive also added to the stores.
“We want it to be a community effort,” he said in a recent interview.
While the church has helped people in need for the last several years, they just hadn’t formalized it until now.
The food pantry is now in one of the AOG’s educational rooms, but Belch is working to move all of the items and operations into another building yet to be installed on AOG property.
The pantry is open from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, and is available to anyone in need, Belch said.
Recipients are required to fill out an application for assistance, which are kept in confidence.
“Everybody knows everybody here,” he said about the island community. If someone does not want to come into the pantry on open days, they may call Belch directly at 252-928-9001.
The church has a policy that people can obtain assistance once a month and no more than four consecutive months.
After that, the church will evaluate the person’s or family’s need.
Belch stressed that the church is not trying to be excessively stringent.
“We’re here to help people in need,” he said about counseling if someone continually seeks donations.
“That’s more than just a band aid,” Belch said. “We want to help them get out of the position they’re in.”
While the pantry has boxed food, it would rather receive canned food donations because boxed food items have expiration dates.
The pantry also has paper goods, toiletries, baby items and cleaning supplies.
When the church gets its new building, Belch said he wants to eventually stock cold foods as well.
New toys are sought for Christmas and the church also can help people with birthday items, Belch said.
“We helped 40 families around Christmas,” he said.
Financial donations are also accepted and can be sent to the church at P.O. Box 68, Ocracoke, NC 27960.
The church has a box for money donations on the porch and expects to have a box for food donations soon.
Belch said he has seen an increased need in the last few years.
“It’s tied to economics,” he said, “and the state has decreased its assistance.”