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Compromise In The Works At Food Pantry
Updated May 5, 2013 1:06 AM | Filed under: WBIW News
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(SEYMOUR) - Aubrey Woods of the Times-Herald reports that a compromise is in the works that could see deliveries of federal commodities resume at Community Provisions of Jackson County.

Deliveries were stopped this month over a concern that Community Provisions of
Jackson County was asking clients whether its volunteers could pray for them.

"They (Gleaners) told me they have a truckload of food to deliver once I sign this agreement," said Paul Brock, president of Community Provisions.
But it's not a done deal.

On Tuesday, Brock said he had signed the agreement with Gleaners, a central Indiana nonprofit that oversees the distribution of food through the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program.

"But I haven't mailed it," he added.

Cindy Hubert with Gleaners said she hopes the proposal resolves the issue.

"We hope this gets worked out," said Hubert, who is president and chief executive officer of Gleaners, which serves a 29-county area.

"The objective is to get food out to the people of the community," she added.

Hubert said no one has an objection to prayer, but there is a need to make sure there is not a perception that prayer is required to receive food.

Earlier this month, Gleaners pulled a pallet of federal food products from the food pantry at 107 Bruce St. in Seymour.

That move came after Brock and Gleaners had a disagreement over whether Brock or any of the 45 volunteers at the pantry can ask people receiving food to pray.

At the time, Brock said Gleaners officials told him he cannot ask people to pray at any time during the process.

Brock contends Gleaners is basing its decision on a regulation in the national
Emergency Food Assistance Program, and he doesn't believe he's out of compliance just because he asks recipients if they would like to pray.

That regulation states that no religious service or teachings can be required in conjunction with receiving services. Brock said if prayer is not allowed, the regulation should clearly state that requirement.

The compromise recently offered to Brock by Gleaners would allow pantry volunteers to ask people if they would like to pray as they are leaving the pantry, after receiving food.

Brock said while that seems to be a workable compromise, he still has reservations about it.

"When people are applying for help, they will tell you their problems," Brock said. "And that's a better time to pray."

Waiting until they leave takes away the intimacy of the issue, he said.

Brock said he was about 90 percent committed to signing and returning the agreement, although there's something in his heart holding him back.

Brock said Gleaners wants his answer about the compromise today, but he said he's not sure what will happen if he doesn't agree to it.

Some people receiving help from the pantry have no problem with being asked if they would like to pray.

"I don't have any objection to it," Sonya Thompson of Seymour said Tuesday.
Linda Holland, also of Seymour, agreed.

"It doesn't bother me," Holland said. "I've been going to church most of my life."
Brock said since Gleaners pulled the federal food, he has received donations from people or organizations from about 11 states.

"I also received a donation from France today," Brock said Tuesday. That $100 donation came from a couple from Maryland, who must be living in France now, Brock said.
"I've probably received about $2,000 in donations," Brock said.

He also has received support from a minister in Ohio, who recommends he not accept federal help.

"He said his organization quit accepting federal help, and it's thriving," Brock said.
Brock also said he has a couple of other issues with the federal program. Those issues are moot if he no longer receives food through the program.

One involves the repackaging of food items in a kitchen at the pantry. That kitchen has been approved by the Jackson County Health Department but can't be used to repackage federal food without approval from the state.

The second issue concerns his requirement that people present identification to receive food from the pantry.

"They say I can't ask for identification to distribute federal food," Brock said.
He said without seeing identification, it would not be hard for a person to apply under one name and come back a week later and receive food using a different name.
But Brock said he also likes receiving the federal food because it's always fresh. The federal food products generally make up about 15 percent of the food he distributes each month.

Although Provisions has lost deliveries of federal foodstuffs, Gleaners said they would be distributed through another food pantry in the county. The pantry at Jackson County Human Services Inc. in Seymour, for instance, has distributed federal foodstuffs for years.

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