The director of an Indiana food pantry cut off from federal aid for asking clients to pray said he's eager to return to work after government officials hinted the decision might soon be reversed.
Paul Brock, director of Community Provisions of Jackson County, said he was "stunned" to learn that officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will re-examine his situation following the loss of his portion of food from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), roughly 15 percent of his stock.
"I'm stunned, I don't know what to say right now," Brock told FoxNews.com early Friday. "I'm very pleased. I argued all along that what I was doing wasn't going against what was written."
Brock, who insists he never required anyone to pray in order to receive food, said 98 percent of those asked ultimately pray with him or other volunteers at the pantry in Seymour.
That scenario, however, led the state of Indiana to determine that the pantry did not meet federal guidelines for the TEFAP program, which states that no "political, religious, or any other non-related activity can be conducted as a condition of, or in conjunction with, receiving commodities or prepared meals" containing commodities.
Following inquiries from FoxNews.com and other media outlets, USDA officials said in statement late Thursday that organizations that receive federal nutrition assistance can still engage in religious activities so long as the activity is not used to create a barrier to eligible individuals from receiving food.
"USDA was recently made aware of the situation in Indiana and is working to provide guidance to the state agency that administers the program," read the statement to FoxNews.com.
Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, which administers TEFAP for Indiana's State Department of Health, ensures compliance by food pantries with those guidelines. Carrie Fulbright, a spokeswoman for the organization, told FoxNews.com on Thursday that while Community Provisions remained a partner agency in "good standing," it no longer received federal food items.
Gleaners took over administration of the federal commodities program in October. Brock has operated Community Provisions, which serves roughly 2,000 families annually, since 1997 and said he never had a problem before Gleaners became the administrator of the federal program.
Todd Young, a Republican congressman serving Indiana's 9th District, contacted state officials regarding the matter on Thursday, his spokesman told FoxNews.com.
"It certainly appears there is a misinterpretation of some rules," spokesman Trevor Foughty said Thursday. "We want to make sure that no one is being denied the public assistance that they need."
If Brock's pantry is ultimately reinstated in the federal program, he should receive another shipment sometime in April, he said. Until then, he remains cautiously optimistic.
"I wasn't hopeful, but it's welcome news," he said. "Maybe it's justice for all, if it happens."