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Wheatland religious leader 'Pays It Forward' by feeding hundreds weekly

The Rev. Tessa Cavey said she knows what it's like to go without food. Now, she's bridging the gap for hundreds in her community.

WHEATLAND, Iowa — According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 38.3 million Americans lived in food-insecure households in 2020, and 9.4 million adults and 6.1 million children lived in households with very low food security. 

In some cases, food insecurity is a financial issue. Some people are faced with tough decisions on how to spend money. That's a reality the Rev. Tessa Cavey with St. Paul's United Church of Christ faced growing up and continued to see in the lives of people throughout Clinton County, Iowa.

"We can't get Meals on Wheels out here," Cavey said. "We're a dead zone. Growing up in this area, I always knew out in this area there was always a need for help." 

Cavey recalled growing up in Wheatland and experiencing the hard times farmers faced when the hog market dropped. 

"Just a box of cereal could've helped," Cavey said. "My grandma and grandpa didn't have anymore, so it was between (paying for) medicine and your food."

In 2019, three young boys confided in Cavey, letting her know they don't have food at home and they were going without. She knew she needed to do something about it. She started by getting food for them and checking on them to make sure they had everything they needed. Then, Cavey saw these were far from the only people in need of food. 

"So my wife and I started (a summer program), and got a bunch of volunteers together. We started with a truck filled with maybe a few hundred pounds of food ... and we fed them."

 Word got out, and the need grew, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. They now send out between 2,500 and 3,000 pounds of food every week to people in need. That equates to about 200 to 400 people weekly.

RELATED: Smaller servings and substitute staples: US food banks struggle with price surge

The food is given out drive-thru style 5-6 p.m. Mondays at Saint Paul's. The volunteers come up, ask how many people you are trying to feed and they give you enough food to accommodate. They serve people not only in Wheatland but also Calamus, Dixon, Big Rock, Toronto, Grand Mount and Lost Nation.

But it's not a free endeavor. Cavey often foots the bill for gas and, in some cases, food in order to make sure people aren't going without food.

If you would like to support Cavey and the food program at Saint Paul's, you can call the church at 563-374-1011 or mail a check to Saint Paul's UCC, P.O. Box 176, Wheatland, IA 52777. Checks should be made payable to Saint Paul's Food Program.

You can learn more about Saint Paul's on Facebook by clicking/tapping here.

Do you know someone like the Rev. Tessa Cavey who goes above and beyond in their community? News 8 and Ascentra Credit Union would like to help you Pay It Forward to them. Click here to nominate someone for the Pay It Forward award.

You can read other stories of incredible people in our community going above and beyond:

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