December 20, 2010

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Barb LeMaster had a tear in her eye recalling a man who came in so hungry, he humbly asked if he could eat some of the frozen bread he was given while he waited in line for the rest of his food box. It had been three days since he’d last had a bite to eat. 

She said there are too many situations just like that, and it’s the whole reason she and her husband James keep Bread of Life, a decade-old ministry, running in Johnson County. Each week, the LeMasters and volunteers from several area churches offer food, clothing and hope to people who need it—all from space in the old Oil Springs School building now known simply as OSCAR, short for Oil Springs Cultural Arts and Recreation. The LeMasters said they help between 350 and 400 families on a monthly basis.

 Brenda Cockerham, the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service family and consumer sciences agent in Johnson County, and her program staff assistant Stella McCarty lend their assistance by showing people how to get the most out of their groceries and how to prepare food that is healthy and nutritious. “We never know who is going to walk through the door,”Cockerham said. “

It could be someone who has been caught in the cycle for some time, but often it’s the elderly, it’s people who don’t have any typical assistance available to them. It comes at a time when they can’t really work, or run out and get a job—not that there are many jobs to get.” 

Barb LeMaster said they really do try to help everyone. “

There are several people that are really in desperate need,” she said. “And as the economy goes down, we are having more people come in. They don’t have applications, but we hardly ever turn anyone away.” 

People who come in each Tuesday can shop for clothes and a variety of other donated items for very little cost. They suggest a $1 donation for the food from each person picking up a package, and they use the funds to purchase food from different food assistance groups like God’s Pantry. 

Cockerham said extension’s main goal in the ministry is to make sure participants know what do with the food items they receive. Each week they try to prepare items for tasting and provide the recipes they used – all from ingredients the participants will receive in that day’s offerings.

 “Our role has been using the food to teach strategies to stretch it as far as you can,” she said. “We want people to have the tools necessary to take those resources and make them work for their own families.” 

LeMaster has been grateful for the extra educational aspect of extension’s participation. “

They have such great recipes, and they can throw a dish together at a low cost,” she said. “It’s good quality food, good healthy food. I just hope people who come in here to get these groceries will pick up on this and really run with it.”