Doug Bowen, who spearheads the food outreach program, said committee members participating in the ministry are "shocked" by the number of people suffering food insecurity in Monett.
"There are several people that eat at the Community Kitchen at the First United Methodist Church's Family Life Center," Bowen said. "Some of them appear to be homeless."
Bowen said the Red Door effort originally started by handing out 60 to 75 sack meals for those eating at the Community Kitchen. That number quickly increased to 100.
"Food prices keep going up, along with everything else," Bowen said. "But we have some savvy shoppers who ad match and catch things on sale, and we are able to provide a breakfast and a lunch or dinner in each sack at a cost of about $1.50."
Breakfast consists of cereal, fruit and a juice drink. Lunch or dinner is typically ramen noodles, tuna, canned soup or another staple, along with a dessert.
"It's basically two meals," Bowen said. "There are critics everywhere, and some have commented on the nutritional value of the meals.
"I figure the government has been trying to get us to eat healthier for years," he continued. "We are more concerned with providing something to eat between Saturday and the next Tuesday when the Community Kitchen is open again."
The food outreach has been active for just a year and has received its 501 C 3 status.
Behind the Red Door Ministry isn't stopping with food distribution.
"We also collect coats to dispense to those in need during the fall, and toys to benefit Linn Thornton's annual Christmas drive," Bowen said. "We took snacks and water to the victims of the Joplin tornado last year. We donated clothing, household items and furniture to the victims of the tornado. Basically, where we see a need, we try to fill it."
Members of St. Stephen's Church have also participated in a laundromat outreach, providing quarters, laundry detergent and dryer sheets to local residents.
"The youth have a good time doing that," Bowen said. "Usually afterward, we order a pizza and plug in the Wii for the kids to enjoy as a reward for their efforts.
"Most people don't realize what a need there is in the community," Bowen said. "We try to do something like that at least once a month."
Even the youngest members of the church lend a hand with the outreach programs at St. Stephen's.
"They will decorate the bags with Christmas stickers or Easter stickers," Bowen said. "They enjoy doing it, and the people getting the bags love it."
Charlene Dart, a Monett Community Kitchen board member, reported to Bowen that many of the guests at the meals pick up their lunch sack before going through the serving line.
"They want to be sure they get one," Bowen said. "We try to put a little something extra in at Christmas and Easter."
Thus far, the ministry has operated on about $6,000 in cash donations and food donations from committee members.
"The rest is obtained through coupons and savvy shopping," Bowen said. "When you can ad match tuna at 19 cents per can and you pick up 100 cans at a time, that really helps stretch the food dollars."
Bowen said local retailers have been very supportive of the ministry.
"Walmart gave us the initial $1,000 grant, which got this program off the ground," Bowen said. "One of our committee members is a whirlwind. She finds those bargains."
Bowen said he hopes St. Stephen's will one day be in the position of offering a monthly meal to community members suffering food insecurity.
"We want to be sure the funding is there," he said. "We don't want to start something and have to stop. We're hoping to work into it gradually."
Committee members for Behind the Red Door Ministries food outreach program include: Janice Bowen, Nancy Smith Leach, Beth Jadlow, Carrie Bradley, Nathan Bowen, Mandy Marney, Wyatt Bowen, Jenna Bowen, John Leach, Melissa Gallian, Austin Rhymer, Jennifer Rhymer, Paige Rhymer, A.J. Rhymer and Bowen.
Donations for the food outreach program may be made to: Behind the Red Door Ministry, P.O. Box 726, Monett, MO 65708.