CROS Ministries launches mobile food pantry

Courtesy photo Leonard Brant Photography.
Courtesy photo Leonard Brant Photography.

It’s CROS Ministries’ (Christians Reaching Out to Society) new mobile food pantry, which delivers canned goods and fresh produce to neighborhoods in central Palm Beach and Martin counties.

Most people who hear Palm Beach think multi-million dollar real estate and A-list celebrities. That’s just along the coast. The interior of the county is a food desert.

In 1978, a group of United Methodist churches did something about it, forming CROS Ministries—Christians Reaching Out to Society. It has grown to become an interfaith effort.

CROS Ministries provides:

  • Hot meals seven days a week at its Caring Kitchen based at Cason United Methodist Church in Delray Beach;
  • Lunch and snacks at its nine-week summer camp, and
  • Food pantries at seven brick-and-mortar locations, including Lighthouse Food Pantry at Community United Methodist Church in Belle Glade.
  • The mobile unit was launched January, using donations from Bank of America, Florida Power & Light and United Way. The 18-foot refrigerated truck was retrofitted with racks that can be rolled into the parking lot where customers can choose the food they want.
Members of CROS ministries pose for a groundbreaking photograph.  
Members of CROS ministries pose for a groundbreaking photograph. Photo courtesy Leonard Brant Photography.

In its first three months, it served 860 individuals, 28 percent of whom were children. It reaches an array of people in need: the homeless, the unemployed, the elderly and the working poor who experience food insecurity.

“We find that in Palm Beach County, many people are working but it’s not enough because the cost of living is so high,” executive director Ruth Mageria said. “They can’t make it last through the month. Sometimes, it’s a choice between buying food and paying the rent, or they use the food money to repair the car.”

Using Palm Beach’s hunger relief plan, CROS Ministries provides food assistance in targeted areas where there are gaps in service. It also makes food available in the evening and on weekends, when other services might not be available.

Last year, 4,500 volunteers gleaned 527,356 pounds of produce—mangos, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, cabbage and radishes. Volunteers send produce headed for waste to area food banks, including CROS Ministries.

The mobile pantry sets up at church every Saturday morning and three Wednesday evenings a month. They are searching for more locations.

“It’s a super wise and efficient way to distribute food. Taking food to the people and avoid paying overhead is a really smart way to distribute food,” Allen said.

Volunteers from the church also invite the people who come for food to access other services in the community. That includes classes in English as a second language, computers, counseling and other services.

“I’m convinced that model could be extremely effective in preaching the gospel as word and deed,” Allen said.

excerpt from an article by Lilla Ross, freelance writer in Jacksonville, FL

Palm Beach County is part of the Florida Annual Conference. This story represents how United Methodist local churches through their Annual Conferences are living as Vital Congregations. A vital congregation is the body of Christ making and engaging disciples for the transformation of the world. Vital congregations are shaped by and witnessed through four focus areas: calling and shaping principled Christian leaders; creating and sustaining new places for new people; ministries with poor people and communities; and abundant health for