Prayer Costs Indiana Food Pantry Access to Gov't Products

An Indiana food pantry has lost access to government commodities to distribute to clients because its volunteers would ask people if they would like to pray.

Community Provisions of Jackson County in Seymour, Ind., a faith-based food pantry supported by local churches, can no longer provide clients with federal government commodities due to its prayer policy.

Paul Brock, director of Community Provisions since December of 1997, told The Christian Post on Wednesday that the problem began in late 2011.

"The controversy began during my Nov. 29, 2011 inspection by Gleaners Food Bank. They are the distribution site the state has chosen and they are the ones responsible to do the inspections," said Brock.

According to Gleaners, faith-based food pantries connected to the government cannot require religious services or teaching to clients of their facilities. However, Brock has argued that Community Provisions' offering of prayer are voluntary and that clients are served regardless of whether or not they agree to pray.

"I started questioning their rules immediately thru email mostly, some phone conversation, so they made their decision, I think, the first week of February," said Brock.

"They did not actually tell me officially until the second week of February when they asked for the inventory of what product we had left."

Carrie Fulbright, director of External Relations for Gleaners, told CP that Community Provisions remains in "good standing" with Gleaners, as they continue to "partner with them for mobile pantry distributions within Jackson County."

"[Community Provisions is] eligible to receive food from the food bank that is not food from the USDA for the Emergency Food Assistance Program," said Fulbright.

"The state of Indiana has determined they are not meeting the guidelines for distribution of the emergency food assistance program distributed through the USDA."

Fulbright said that Gleaners, as overseer to the state's food bank, acted to deny Community Provisions access to government products on the part of the Indiana government.

According to Brock, the government supplies that went to their food bank accounted for "only 15 percent of our total product" and he is thankful for the donations that have helped their food pantry remain in operation.

"It is a much bigger issue than just the loss of food for one organization," said Blake Fish, a member of Community Provisions' board of directors, to CP.

"I believe this is an issue that could have ramifications reaching to not only all faith-based organizations but also to the daily lives of fellow believers."

In response to Gleaners' decision, Brock has sought out help from several entities, including Congressman Todd Young, who represents the Ninth District of Indiana. He has also appealed to the Indiana Department of Health.

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