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PRAIRIE GROVE -- Every Saturday, the sidewalk in front of Prairie Grove United Methodist Church is lined with boxes filled with food to provide meals to those in need during the covid-19 pandemic.

The church started this special ministry during March and plans to continue it as long as it can, said Brea Gragg, children's minister.

Nathan Gastineau, a church lay leader, said he wants people in western Washington County to know about the program and to sign up if they need help to feed their families. The church has a link on its website and people can go to the link to sign up for a food box.

"We've tried to make it simple," Gastineau said. "To request food, fill out the form, hit submit and that's it."

The form asks participants to provide information such as name, address, number in the family, ages of children, and any dietary needs.

After the church receives the form, someone will contact the family to confirm details and schedule a pickup. Food is available for pickup from noon to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

Gastineau said many families were picking up food boxes in the beginning. Participation slowed during the summer but now it is starting to increase again.

According to a chart on the program, the church has served 371 families and 1,646 individuals since March. The weekly average is 16 families and 71 people. The average for the past three Saturdays, though, has been almost 30 families and 127 family members.

The majority of the food provided to families is purchased from the NWA Food Bank. Other items come from Sam's Club.

In addition, Gastineau said the church is providing fresh produce from a large garden on church property. About five or six families tend the garden by picking vegetables and pulling weeds.

Donations to keep the program going have come from Prairie Grove Junior Civic League, church members and people from the community, a grant from the Arkansas Methodist Foundation and a grant from Delta Dental.

The church website also has a link for someone to donate online. All donations go directly to the ministry, Gastineau said.

In a world that seems chaotic, Gastineau said the food ministry is a way that the church can serve others and meet needs.

"We can't solve every problem, but we can feed people," Gastineau said. "It gives us something to do, literally solving a problem every week and helps us stay focused."

He added, "We can solve problems right here in western Washington County. There are people who are hungry and we can do this."

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To sign up for food or to donate money for the ministry, go to pgmethodist.com. The front page of the website gives information about the “We Feed People” program.

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