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Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Local food pantry cuts ties with government food bank

By Amy Kronenberger

CALL Food Pantry Director Tim Clutter stocks shelves today, two days after cutti. . .

CELINA - A local food pantry has terminated its contract with the West Ohio Food Bank so workers can minister to those in need of food.
CALL Food Pantry on Brandon Avenue in Celina now will rely on non-government assistance and donations, director Rev. Tim Clutter said this morning.
"We are a Christian organization," he said. "Because of our relationship with West Ohio and the subsequent receiving of food commodities, we weren't allowed to minister our food in the name of Jesus Christ."
Additionally, the former agreement with the government food bank said the pantry was not allowed to require proof of poverty. The pantry serves clients at 200 percent of the poverty level and lower, however, they were not allowed to verify who was being truthful and who was cheating the system, Clutter said.
Beginning Jan. 1, CALL will require proof of poverty.
CALL serves more than 1,000 families per month, totaling about 3,500 people. Clutter said since they terminated the agreement with the food bank Wednesday, the "outpouring of support has been amazing."
"The donations have been flowing in, and the shelves are fuller now than before," he said. "It's business as usual."
Clutter said he hand-delivered a 30-day notice of termination to the food bank on Tuesday, intending to end the contract at the end of the year. On Wednesday, two employees from the food bank delivered their own termination notice, effective immediately.
Any food from the food bank still on the shelves Wednesday was returned to the food bank.
"As the truck carrying six pallets of food pulled away, another truck arrived unannounced delivering six pallets of food," he said.
The West Ohio Food Bank supplies government-issued food to 11 counties, which includes Mercer County. As a government agency, pantries are able to purchase the food at a deep discount.
Food bank CEO Bambi Markham said the organization is required to distribute a certain amount of food to each of the 11 counties, according to each county's poverty level. Entering into an agreement with the food bank allows local pantries to purchase $5 worth of food for only $1, she said.
Now that the agreement with CALL has been terminated, Markham said she will be contacting other area pantries.
"We have food specifically for Mercer County," she said. "Our goal as a bank is to get into the county to help. We don't want the families in your community to suffer, especially during the holiday season."
CALL has purchased food from the food bank since the pantry opened in 1990. However, Clutter said he is excited for the next phase in his organization. In addition to food, Clutter hopes to expand the pantry to incorporate Christian-based education programs, clothing programs and other possibilities.
"We're truly a church here and with government commodities we couldn't be a church," he said. "It was time to move on. Now we can offer a wide variety of programs we couldn't offer before."
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