CHIPLEY - Several local families in need will be given free food at upcoming Farm Share events.

Shepherd's Gate Church and Washington County Sheriff's Office will host two independent food distribution events at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 10 at 10 a.m. and 17, respectively. The church, located at 1950 Ferguson Road, will combine its distribution with a free fish fry. WCSO's address is 1293 Jackson Ave.

Established in 1991, nonprofit food bank Farm Share partners with Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and inmates at Florida Department of Corrections, and other volunteers, to re-sort and package produce from farms that would otherwise have been thrown away due to bruising or size. The organization ships the produce to other agencies for local distribution at no cost.

Shepherd's Gate hosts Farm Share distributions monthly. With the event hitting record numbers last month - serving 149 families - Pastor Travis Mask said "there's a huge need in our area."

"The Bible tells us that that you do to the least of them, you do to me," he added, referencing biblical scripture. "Taking care of the widows and the orphans and taking care of the people that are less fortunate."

The church also runs the only USDA-approved program in the county and offers food assistance bi-monthly to local families that meet the federal income requirements.

"Anybody's welcome to come," Mask said. "We want everybody in Washington County to show up. We'd love to feed everybody." 

Both agency's Farm Share distribution events are first-come first-served and are set up as a drive-through to help accommodate individuals with disabilities and small children. No form of personal information is required.

"We want to let the community know in everyway that we possibly can, that we are here for them," WCSO Public Information Officer Kristin Martin, noting the event and similar ones help foster a friendly relationship between the community and law enforcement. "Our deputies are really working hard to be more active in the community."

Martin said WCSO expects to give away thousands of pounds food and, depending on the reception, may look to institute the event annually. WCSO requests people to arrive early to the March 17 event.

"We're trying to assist as many families as possible," she added.

For more information, contact Travis Mask at 850-33-9521 for the March 10 distribution and Kristin Martin at 850-638-6111 for the March 17 event.