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Food Bank Must Choose Between Federal Aid, Prayer

A Seymour food bank has found itself at the forefront of a separation of church and state debate. The Director of the Jackson County Community Provisions is still undecided on whether to change his policy on prayer so he can rejoin a federal food program.

Paul Brock’s food pantry received about 15% of its food from the federal program called The Emergency Food Assistance Program, or TEFAP.

Community Provisions has been out of compliance with TEFAP regulations because volunteers invite those receiving aid to pray. TEFAP cut support to the group after learning about the prayer policy.

Despite the invitation to pray, Brock says no one is turned down because of their faith, or lack thereof.

“It doesn’t matter, you can be an atheist, you can be of any religious background, it doesn’t matter to us,” he says. “If you need help, we’re here to help. If you don’t like the idea of prayer, all you have to say is ‘no’, and you still get the help.”

Brock says he has been contacted by ministry groups all over the world wanting to help the food bank, and hopes those donations will help bridge the gap left when the TEFAP food stopped coming.

Doreeta Lucas visited the food bank for the first time Wednesday. She says many Jackson County residents rely on the food bank, and worries how the loss of TEFAP food will affect supplies.

“There’s going to be a lot of people going hungry in this town, because there are a lot of people who come through here,” she says.

Gleaners Food Bank, the organization that administers TEFAP in Indiana did offer Brock a compromise. He didn’t disclose the details of the proposal. And while he hasn’t officially decided not to accept the offer, he says Gleaners’ deadline of today to respond will go unanswered

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