Oct. 27—MARIETTA — Most of MUST Ministries' buildings are located near a bus stop, and it's not a coincidence; people who struggle to pay for housing or for food can't exactly afford their own cars, noted Ike Reighard, the nonprofit's director.
But being near a bus stop isn't always good enough. To that end, MUST unveiled a "mobile pantry" Tuesday it touts as the first in metro Atlanta. Stocked with fresh produce and other goods, it will go to "food deserts" in Cobb, Cherokee and north Fulton counties, places where people might have ready access to a McDonald's but not to a proper grocery store.
Going to the client, rather than waiting for the client to come to MUST "is going to take a huge burden off of them," Reighard said. "Because even if they ride a bus and they come in, then they still got to transport that (food) home. And so this just makes for a whole different world of being able to serve people."
Built into a converted city bus, the mobile pantry is expected to help 16,000 people, or 6,500 households, during its first year of operation, according to Yvonne Byars, senior director at MUST. Last year, the nonprofit served almost 46,000 people.
The bus can be loaded with 2,500 pounds of food, enough for 100 families.
MUST supporters were given a tour of the bus Tuesday. Bins of apples, onions, oranges and potatoes sat beside a fridge full of low-fat milk, butter and cartons of eggs. Nearby, a freezer held frozen berries and meats. At the back of the bus were a variety of toiletries to accommodate a range of ethnicities, Byars said.
"The majority of our clients are people of color — 70%. So we want to make sure that we provide products that are for ethnic clients as well," she said. "We want to preserve the dignity of our families, and we want to make sure that we're giving them items that they can use."
The mobile pantry was made possible, in part, with a $250,000 donation from Kroger's Zero Hunger Zero Waste foundation. Felix Turner, a corporate affairs manager at Kroger, said he was excited when MUST approached Kroger, a longtime partner, with the "innovative" idea.
It's "not only just food, but really, it's nutritious food — fresh, nutritious food, to communities that are really in dire need of it," Turner said. "That's what it's all about."