I am RIFA – Senior Staples

Senior Staples is one of RIFA’s eight hunger-fighting ministries. This ministry provides food assistance throughout the year to senior citizens in West Tennessee. RIFA’s Volunteer Manager, Thomas Brown, and former Community Outreach Coordinator, Marie Geiser, explained the ministry and its impact.

The Senior Staples ministry provides boxes of shelf-stable food to five senior centers and two low-income apartment complexes. Each box contains 25-30 pounds of canned and dry goods that are donated to RIFA. Some of the most common items include rice, beans, pasta, and vegetables. Several different RIFA staff members are involved in this ministry. From coordinating volunteers, to overseeing the packing and distribution of the boxes, and gathering information from the different locations that will receive the boxes, everyone has an important role. 

Thomas oversees the boxes every step of the way. He described the box packing process: “We spend some time selecting items for the boxes. We’ll have a large group of volunteers come in and help us pack those. Volunteers help with everything from assembling the boxes, putting the items in the boxes, stacking them on pallets, loading them into the truck, and delivering them. There are quite a few different steps involved; fortunately, Jackson is a giving community and we have lots of people who like to be a part of this ministry. That’s how we keep it going every month.”

Boxes are delivered to seven locations. Those locations are divided into two groups, with each group receiving a box every other month. As boxes are packed, they are stacked on pallets. When it’s time for delivery, those pallets are loaded onto the truck, which Thomas then drives to make the deliveries at the senior centers and apartment complexes. Thomas said “From there [the senior center], some people come and pick it up themselves, but the centers also have other volunteers and workers who will take those boxes and get them delivered to the people who aren’t able to get there.” 

When asked how people receive a box, Marie said “Just like we work with school counselors for Snack Backpack, we work with these senior centers and they identify seniors who need food. Seniors and children are among the highest food-insecure populations.” The ministry serves about 530 people. “It fluctuates some,” Marie said. A few people might be added to the list or leave from one month to the next. “We rotate the centers we serve, so it’s usually about 250 one month and 280 the other month.” The boxes are distributed in Jackson, Lexington, Denmark, Sardis, Crockett County, and Brownsville. “Brownsville is our biggest,” Marie said. “We serve about 150 people there. They’re underserved because there are very few resources in the area. That’s why so many people in that area receive a box.”

Thomas has the opportunity to interact with people while delivering the boxes. When asked if he had any stories from being involved in this ministry, Thomas smiled and said, “We have a special relationship with one of the senior centers. They love to see when the RIFA truck comes by. There was this one time that I pulled up. It was cold and I was having trouble with my dolly. They had a dolly there that I could use; I just wasn’t used to it. They loaned it to me, and once I got it back to them, they actually had a birthday party going on for one of the people there. They let me be a part of the birthday party and I got some cake, and I got to say hi. It’s just great that I actually get to meet people in this ministry. Even if there’s not a party, I get to meet a lot of people and it’s great.”

Thomas  also spoke on the impact of the ministry. “It’s effective at reaching people who are not able to get out into the community on their own. So, when you’re delivering a package of food to somebody that has things in it that they just can’t normally get, I think it’s a very good ministry. It makes a difference.” 


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