Atmore Area Christian Care Ministry’s food bank has been providing fresh and frozen food to senior citizens, disabled people and other qualifying individuals for more than 17 years. That ministry has now been expanded.
Beginning this week, AACCM will also help those who apply for food stamps by providing the application forms, assisting with filling them out and seeing that the forms get to the right place for approval and issuance. The local ministry will accept applications each Tuesday, from 9 a.m. until noon, at its location on the corner of Cindebran Road and U.S. 31.
“Right now, people who want to apply for food stamps have to go to the police station to get an application,” explained Volunteer Coordinator Julia Strack.
“When they get the application from the police station, they are on their own as far as filling it out, then they have to get it to Brewton, either by mail or in person. They can still go to the police station, but being able to come here takes the stigma out of applying for food stamps.”
Applications that are filed here are sent to Feeding the Gulf Coast, formerly known as Bay Area Food Bank, where they are processed.
“Our food bank helps with application assistance as a way to further what we do for food insecurity,” said Beth Finch, who is head of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (the formal name of the USDA’s food stamp program) for Feeding the Gulf Coast. “This helps people in more than one direction with their food insecurity. Yes, they’re going to give them a food box, but what’s the long-term sustainability?”
Finch and Kari Cox were in Atmore on August 11 to train Brenda Baker and Strack, who will be Baker’s backup, in helping food stamp applicants fill out the application forms.
“We’re going to train them on how to help seniors document all of their out-of-pocket medical expenses,” Finch said. “That’s a really big part of the senior application and it’s something that’s very specific to senior households, so that’s important, one of the big things we try and encourage our partners to look at.”
Cox said the application process “can really be confusing,” especially for those with a low education level and those who have trouble reading fine print. The one-on-one experience can benefit applicants in more than one way, she said.
“They need someone to talk to; they need somebody that knows what’s going on, because nobody sees their situation,” Cox said. “If you can offer them that empathy, I think they really appreciate the personalized attention. You might be the only person they talk to that day.”
Finch noted that the local ministry is one of the partners of Feeding the Gulf Coast, which covers a 24-county area of Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, that has taken an extra step in providing needed services to those in the area who are most in need.
“Atmore Christian Care has really gone above and beyond what most of our partners do to really try and serve,” she said. “We can’t be in nine counties at once, at all our distribution sites, so we try and encourage all of our partners (to do this). But not all of them do. It’s nice that (AACCM) is willing to do this; I think it shows their commitment to this community in a larger way.”
For more information on the ministry, including the food stamp applications, call 251-253-7190.