A local church has expanded its food bank and is looking to help more Crawford County residents in need.

First Presbyterian Church in Van Buren members decided to expand their food pantry after Compassionate Ministries, a food pantry that was located on Kibler Road, closed its doors Oct. 24.

Farmer Food Bank, the name of the church’s food pantry, was named after their former pastor, Dan Farmer, who was also the first director of Compassionate Ministries, said John Starks, director of the pantry at First Presbyterian.

Starks is one of several members of the church who were volunteers at Compassionate Ministries. When it was no longer able to stay open, he and the others decided to try to fill the void for those in need, he said.

Compassionate Ministries had been open for 20 years, and was feeding more than 100 Crawford County families - about 2,700 people - a week, Starks said.

"We want to take that over for Compassionate Ministries, since they’re no longer in existence," Starks said.

Farmer Food Bank has seen tremendous support, Starks said. Walmart in Alma, Lowe’s in Van Buren and Autoplex all have donated money or provided deep discounts on food, State Rep. Gary Deffenbaugh helped with a state grant and Car Corner is donating 50 turkeys to give away for Christmas, he said.

River Valley Food Bank also is providing food to the church, and they will begin to get food from Rice Depot next month, Starks said.

Unfortunately, the bank is not seeing enough hungry families taking advantage of the free food, he said. Though the numbers went up close to Thanksgiving, Starks said only a few families come in each day.

While more people are visiting the bank, volunteers would like to get 10 to 20 families a day and eventually increase that to the same number as Compassionate Ministries, Starks said.

"It’s a pretty ambitious undertaking for a church that probably only has about 50 come on a Sunday," Starks admits. "We’re a small church, but we do a lot."

Out of 75 counties, Crawford County is No. 1 in the state for food insecurity for seniors, No. 3 for children and No. 6 overall, Starks said.

"Those are not the things we want to be No. 1 in," Starks said.

Farmer Food Bank bank is open the same hours previously held by Compassionate Ministries - Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to noon.

To take advantage of food being provided, visit the church food bank at Jefferson Street and South 10th Street. Call (479) 474-2375 for more information.