MIAMI — A local organization that has been working hard every day doing all they can to help people facing food insecurities during this time of uncertainty has found itself unable to continue its work — for now, which is unfortunate timing during the holidays.
After the United States Department of Agriculture imposed new restrictions forcing the number of companies making bulk food deliveries to food banks to go from seven to just one for the entire state, there have been no deliveries to the local Good Neighbor Project in Miami and, in turn, no deliveries to the people of Ottawa County.
For now, those in need are being referred to the Salvation Army in Miami and other food banks in Quapaw and Wyandotte that receive donations from other sources until Good Neighbor can restart its program.
“We are referring people to the Salvation Army for now,” said Rick Aldridge, who is in charge of the program’s day-to-day operations through the Oklahoma Emergency Response Team (OKERT). “We have shut down for a couple of months because we don’t get any more shipments from Farmers to Families. It’s a tough situation. There is only one shipper in the entire state of Oklahoma and, of course, they are inundated so they can’t support us.”
The Good Neighbor Project was launched earlier this year with a core group of Aldridge, Bless Parker, Cori Stotts, Steve Chasteen and Michael Hart along with others.
“The USDA really put some heavy restrictions on the program and it’s hurting us,” Aldridge said. “It has gone from seven shippers to one and that certainly doesn’t help anybody. We have had to put our project on the back burner and are hoping that will get fixed.”
Aldridge said there is a remodel of the storage warehouse under way “trying to get it secure so people can’t break in, and so we can continue to hand out food — if we get any.”
But right now the big piece of that project, which was receiving and distributing food boxes, has ground to a halt, Aldridge said.
Those in need are being referred to the Salvation Army here.
“They have been very helpful and they are funded so they still get a lot of food from big food banks like ‘Feed the Children,’ and are able to help some,” Aldridge said.
He said once food deliveries resume, it won’t be like it had been before when they were able to include big boxes of fresh vegetables and other items.
According to Aldridge, it will be more like it was at the beginning of the GN program when all they were able to provide were some non-perishables food items and basic staples like potatoes and rice.
“Our hope is that when the modifications are done at the warehouse we will have enough that we will be able to help some people,” he said. “Our goal is to have it ready within the next month, before Christmas, but it depends on money. And then we will need volunteers to help. And we will have to look at whether we can serve the entire county again or only Miami and the immediate area.
“We went from servicing just over 900,000 people in Ottawa County since March down to servicing almost nobody. It’s pretty painful and frustrating that we can’t do more,” Aldridge said.
The food items needed regularly by the Good Neighbor Project include meat (beef, fish, pork and deer), rice, cereal, ramen, eggs, bread, lunch meat, cake mix/frosting, oatmeal, canned fruit, milk, powdered milk, pancake mix, syrup, soup, Hamburger Helper, Spaghetti O’s, ravioli, applesauce, butter, cheese, tuna, cornbread mix and instant potatoes.
For those who would like to donate food or funds to help, checks can be made out to OKERT and mailed to 815 Scott Lane, Miami, OK 74354, or make a donation through https://www.gofundme.com/f/miami-good-neighbor-project
For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/Miami-Good-Neighbor-Project-113236296982684 or call 918-919-1540.
The Salvation Army is located at 217 W. Steve Owens Boulevard and is open to assist those in need with food, clothing, and energy costs on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon. For more information, call 918-542-3467.