ShowMeResilience in Madison County: 'No need for anyone to go hungry'

  • Published: Tuesday, March 24, 2020

University of Missouri Extension in Madison County powered into high gear as soon as news went out last week that the Fredericktown schools were closing. “‘How are we going to fill in the gaps? Because we know there will be big gaps in services in our county and communities.’ That was our first thought,” said Shanna Sorg, a nutrition and health education specialist serving Iron, Madison and Reynolds counties in southeastern Missouri.

The school district quickly devised its own program to serve students meals. So Sorg and Ashley Bales, MU Extension’s county engagement specialist in Madison County, pivoted to help with other rapidly emerging needs in their rural county. The senior nutrition center was shuttered. The small local food pantry run by volunteers was going to be quickly overrun with requests for help.

In response, the two set up the Madison County Food Helpers, a Facebook group that’s become a hub for tracking and sharing individual and community needs; scheduling volunteers to help collect and deliver food to the homebound and the local food pantry; converting free library boxes into well-stocked community food donation boxes, and staffing the food pantry (observing CDC guidelines, of course).

In a few days, almost 300 followers have joined. And while the group may be “virtual,” its impact is real. “In addition to volunteers, we put out a call for food donations to the food pantry,” Sorg said. The response? About 600 pounds of food — including 14 dozen fresh eggs — were delivered to the MU Extension office, along with many generous monetary donations to the food pantry.

The Food Helpers also is coordinating and centralizing donations to the weekly school backpack program, which sends nutritious food home with students over the weekend — especially important now that both the Fredericktown and Marquand-Zion districts have closed.

Bales and Sorg know that their online information won’t reach whole swathes of their rural county because of a lack of broadband access. “But there is no need for anyone to go hungry. So we’re looking at other ways to get information out about all meal and food assistance options,” said Sorg. “We’re especially thinking about so many of our older folks. We don’t want them to have to ride this out alone.”

Once the information is confirmed, they will share it with all churches in the county, the regional radio station, weekly newspaper and a TV station that broadcasts out of Cape Girardeau.

“It’s been exciting and amazing, this outpouring of support and volunteers. We didn’t know until a challenge like this virus came along how many people in the community are ready to give back,” Sorg said. “It is heartwarming.”

Photos available for this release:
This 'little free library' box has been repurposed for community food donations.
Community members delivered about 600 pounds of donated food to the MU Extension Center in Madison County.

Writer: Katherine Foran

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Shanna Sorg

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