Anna Grantham can be found many days crisscrossing Baldwin County with a car full of hundreds of pounds of dog and cat food. The crinkly bags fill the trunk of her vehicle, the middle seats and …
Anna Grantham can be found many days crisscrossing Baldwin County with a car full of hundreds of pounds of dog and cat food. The crinkly bags fill the trunk of her vehicle, the middle seats and usually leave no space for her children to ride along.
She is driven by a single force — hungry pets are waiting for her.
"My goal is to help. I know I can't get rid of pet hunger 100 percent. But we need to bring awareness of pet hunger," Grantham said.
It's difficult to quantify how many pets die each year from starvation. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that roughly 6.3 million animals enter shelters each year in the United States. Often families report that they must abandon their pet due to loss of income.
When the spread of COVID-19 pushed families to the brink of hunger as workplaces shut down, non-profits rushed to find them help. Their pets sitting at home, however, remained hungry.
Grantham was already crafting homemade dog treats in her Summerdale kitchen as a side gig known to savvy shoppers as Farm to Treat. The handcrafted treats, balms and even doggie birthday cakes are crafted with ingredients from small local farms.
Grantham was perfecting the growing business in addition to working two other jobs in the service industry.
Suddenly, COVID-19 arrived, and Grantham too was jobless. Farm to Treat became her focus.
As the pandemic wore on, she saw more pets go hungry and more pets dropped at shelters after their families could no longer care for them. She decided that she would not watch another animal go unfed.
Grantham filled her quiet pandemic days crafting dog treats and dreaming up the Chow Line Pet Food Pantry, a donation-based non-profit that gives hungry people food for their hungry animals. The non-profit opened in April of this year. Within days there was a list of pets who needed help.
Currently the Chow Line keeps a wish list handy on Amazon and updates it weekly as food flies off the shelves to local pets in need.
The Chow Line also accepts donations of open bags of food that are not expired. Owners may have open bags if their pet passes away or if they have a picky pooch who refuses to eat another bite.
The group offers two types of emergency assistance. First, a one-time assistance requires no application. The pet owner needs to provide their driver's license and the Chow Line will give them food for three days.
For monthly assistance, families can fill out an online application. There is a limit of five animals per application. Grantham said the monthly disbursement is intended to be supplemental.
"That is where it gets tricky. We offer a large sum of food to stretch out with what they can afford to feed their animal," Grantham said. "It's not 100 percent of what they need, but if they are frugal, they can make it stretch."
In just three months, the Chow Line has distributed roughly 2,780 pounds of food. Last month the group hired a board of directors. Now they are in search of sponsors for gas, a cargo trailer and a brick-and-mortar location where needy families can come and pick up food.
Currently Grantham is working out of a 150-square foot storage unit.
Recent soaring gas prices meant the Chow Line had to stay parked for two weeks, missing community outreach days at partner non-profits such as Prodisee Pantry.
"There is definitely an idea that non-profit leaders are wealthy. The idea that people who start a non-profit have money to give. But if the Chow Line depends on me to lift it up financially by myself, I can't do it," she said.
Grantham typically spends roughly $400 a month in gas, a cost she pays out of pocket.
She adds that she has been fortunate that Baldwin County leaders and residents have helped lift up the Chow Line and help it grow.
"Everybody loves pets and wants to help. I've been very fortunate because everything I have asked for has been offered," she said. "We're hopeful when people see the work we are doing they will be supportive with volunteer work as well. That's what it takes to keep a non-profit going."