JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Food is the centerpiece of most holiday celebrations, especially Thanksgiving.
But for hundreds of thousands of people living in Northeast Florida, meals will be absent Thursday. But Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida is helping feed families year-round, including during the holidays.
“Last month alone we serviced 1,240 families. You got to equivalate. That’s probably 2,000 to 3,000 family members that make up the total," said Jason Clark, director of Nourishment Network Market at Lutheran Social Services. “So, we’re feeding a lot of people on a monthly basis."
Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida offers the only client-choice food pantry, created to serve people with specific dietary needs and called the Nourishment Network Market, on Jacksonville’s Southside. Families are able to come to the pantry and shop for what they need and want.
“One in five families are insecure families. When you think about that, the majority of our clientele that come in here are working families,” Clark said.
Mona and her family are just one of the many families who take advantage of this service. They said they have been able to get food and household items.
“We’re so grateful and we just want to say thank you. I can’t express it more. It really makes us feel good that there’s somebody out there that cares enough," said Mona and her family. “I mean, my husband, he worked all of his life and then when it came for retirement, we were one of those that got caught and he got laid off and never hired again -- two months before 20-year retirement. It just put a crunch, you know? And when it puts a bad crunch, you need people there to help you.”
From fresh produce, vegan options, canned goods and sweets, the pantry offers a variety of foods.
It will be open Monday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving, giving families one more reason to be thankful this holiday.
The normal pantry hours are 10 a.m. to noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday.
For more information on the pantry, visit LSSJax.org.