The Williamson County Fair has a modest entrance fee.
Though, this past Monday, attendees could get in not only with money, but with donations to GraceWorks Ministries' Food Pantry, an initiative that collected 6,905 lbs. of donations.
The donations of canned foods and toiletries will aid GraceWorks Ministries’ efforts to combat food insecurity in Williamson County.
According to GraceWorks Ministries’ 2020/21 Impact Report, their food program has served more than 9,000 people for that recorded year.
“The fair is very kind to allow us to collect food as an entrance fee,” GraceWorks Ministries Food Acquisition Manager Phil Rutledge said. “Right now support means a lot. Food shortages are everywhere. A year ago, we gave away 567 grocery carts of food in June. This year, we gave out 938, so we've almost doubled what we're giving away.”
According to Feeding America, 6.1% of Williamson County residents experience food insecurity, meaning that more than 14,000 people are in need of support with food. That number sits at 11.9% state-wide and 11.8% nationally.
“Locally and globally, too, I think it's gonna get tighter and tighter,” Rutledge said, adding that as donations have decreased since the beginning of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they have had to purchase more goods themselves.
“The amount of food we get from grocery stores, that's what we call rescue food," Rutledge said, "food that they have to pull off the shelf or still has some life in it. They're making their food go farther, so we're getting a little bit less than we used to.”
GraceWorks Ministries has been active for more than 25 years and operates a shelter and a thrift store in addition to their food pantry.
The organization is currently searching for a new home after it was announced that their current building, from which they have operated out of for 22 years, will be sold and have the lease expire next year.