While every tornado season in Alabama promises a handful of storms, 2021 included some especially devastating tornadoes. The Community Food Bank of Central Alabama serves 12 counties in the heart of tornado country, and when storms like these pass through, it’s the unfortunate reality that our neighbors will be significantly affected each year. We monitored storms this season, and the biggest devastations happened in late January and March. These storms touched Fultondale, AL on January 25, and another passed through several towns in Shelby and Calhoun Counties on March 25. In total, there were four EF-3 tornadoes, three EF-2’s, 3 EF-1’s and 1 EF-0 that came through Central Alabama on March 25.
After storms like these, we always contact each of our partner agencies in the affected areas to make sure that they are okay and to see what their immediate needs are. We also coordinate with EMAs and VOAD members to assess community needs as a whole and come alongside organizations that are providing emergency assistance.
All our agencies’ team members and locations were thankfully untouched this year, but their communities were in a different spot. The day after the tornado on March 25, we sent out around 4,000 lbs of food, water, and toiletries to first responders in Vandiver, AL, a small community in Eastern Shelby County that was directly hit, as well as another large load of water, snacks, and paper/hygiene products to first responders in Columbiana, AL.
While we do respond immediately to any expressed needs, our main goal as the Community Food Bank is to be the long-term response – after the initial help is gone and community donations are depleted. For us, this means identifying the areas with lasting devastation and holding big mobile pantry food distributions a couple of months after the storms. Using this timeline, people are typically back in their homes or in a place where they can effectively prepare food. For example, we wouldn’t want to give fresh meat and produce to people directly after the storms, as most are still displaced or experiencing electrical issues. Waiting a couple of months ensures that we can most effectively help these families in a season of increased bills and financial insecurity.
We held three of these disaster response mobile pantries this season – one each in Fultondale (May 7th in Jefferson County), Ohatchee (June 25th in Calhoun Co.), and Pelham (July 8th in Shelby Co.). Over these three distributions, we had enough food to feed 2,250 households. Each household received enough food to feed a family of 4 for 7-10 days (which is a conservative estimate). We distributed a variety of things, including 20 lb turkeys, ground beef, grass-fed butter, blueberries, apples, 20 lb. boxes of farm-fresh vegetables, and as always, a 34 lb box of shelf-stable pantry goods.
We are so thankful to be able to provide this additional community support, and we couldn’t do it without the generous donations from our sponsors and the time our fantastic volunteers spent sorting donations, packing boxes, and distributing food the day of the events.
We want to especially thank IBERIABANK (A Division of First Horizon Bank) and Susan Mott Webb Charitable Trust for sponsoring our Fultondale distribution. We are grateful to Church of the Highlands Fultondale for hosting us in their parking lot and to the City of Fultondale and the Jefferson County EMA for their support. We also want to thank Oak Bowery Baptist Church for hosting us in their parking lot for the Ohatchee distribution and the Pelham Civic Complex & Ice Arena for hosting us in their parking lot in Shelby County. The City of Pelham was incredibly supportive, and we could not have fed our neighbors in need in Calhoun and Shelby Counties without Ferguson Cares. Morgan Stanley was gracious enough to support all three of our distributions in Fultondale, Ohatchee, and Pelham, and we are incredibly grateful for their support. Because of the generosity of all of our partners, we are able to feed more, TOGETHER.
If you would like to join us in fulfilling our mission, we would love to have you. We only survive because of donors, volunteers, and supporters like you. TOGETHER, we can do more. TOGETHER, we can solve hunger.