Food pantries can be a busy place, and not surprisingly, they rely on a committed team of volunteers to serve the people who rely on them.
The pantry at St. John’s Catholic Church in Milford is no exception. It’s open from 10 a.m. until noon on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Managers Grace and Tom Greenlee have fielded a team of 15-20 volunteers to greet and serve clients as well as to help behind the scenes packing, sorting, bagging and other tasks.
This pantry regularly serves from 120-140 families each month, and many of those families are associated with the church, Mrs. Greenlee said.
According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap study, there are 117,970 food -insecure Delawareans, and 1 in 5 Delaware children live in poverty.
In order to help their neighbors, hunger-relief partners, like St. John’s, usually have a small, grassroots start.
This pantry had humble beginnings; it originated in the church’s small garage, but as the need grew so did the space.
Early on, the pantry relied on donations from church members, but eventually organizers decided to become an official community partner with the Food Bank of Delaware in order to better serve their clients. (There are 575 hunger-relief program partners statewide.)
Now, food is distributed in the church’s community building which has a literal pantry (shelves with neatly organized non-perishables and a small freezer) tucked into an indoor storage closet.
In addition to the year ‘round food assistance, Mrs. Greenlee said thanks to generous donors, in 2016 the pantry was also able to provide Thanksgiving and Christmas food baskets to the families it serves.
Clients here are required to register through the state Division of Health and Social Services, and by doing so, may have access to other state programs to benefit their families.
At this pantry, there are usually some extra treats to accompany the traditional non-perishable food items. For example, St. John’s partners with the Food Donation Connection to obtain extra frozen sandwiches from the local Wawa. The sandwiches, stored in cooler bags, are an additional option, as is frozen Italian bread donated by a local bakery.
“They like it, and we like to put in a little extra,” Mrs. Greenlee said.
For more information on how to help hungry Delawareans, click here.