Experienced in starting a food pantry?


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Southern Maryland
I may be putting this in the wrong place by placing in the Belief & Spirituality forum, but I am trying to generate the greatest response by doing so. I will offer discussion on the why's and spiritual significance if that will help.

Anyway, I was wondering if anyone has had experience in starting a food pantry? I'm seriously suggesting starting one possibly in my church. Any suggestions would be helpful.
i once had a supervisor at my work who went to a church that did food pantries. he always told us how great they were, though i never knew what they were, just that the food was great. so... what the heck are food pantries?
In a nutshell, it usually consists of a church pantry filled with canned food that will be distributed to needy families. The pantry is usually stocked by members of the congregation, but you can also elicit help and donations from local groceries and such, which gives them a tax writeoff.
well then. sorry about that. i thought it was something else. ignore me.
well my ex sup says they would have like marriage counseling meetings and everyone was asked to bring some food so that there would be like a buffet of some sorts. that is what i had thought you were inquiring. LOL! i was like, "dude, just ask everyone to bring food. what's so hard about that?" my bad though. what you are saying is actually alot more complicated.
I think that's an awesome idea Dondi! My advice is perseverance. Last year I started a Community Supper at our church. No one came to the first three dinners! We advertise at the local food pantry and thrifts shops. We started advertising at the Senior Center and that finally brought people in and we've since established a good foundation of people who come to the suppers. The idea was to be part of the local community by offering a free meal in a family type atmosphere. The local food pantry is doing four times the work they did even a few years ago, so even though this is a wealthy town there is a need.

Starting it is simple enough.. ask your congregation for donations..
1. stick with non-perishable items- canned foods, powdered milk, etc.
2. you will want to set up some kind of "guide" before hand. As honorable as your intentions are, you can't help everyone. So, until you get more donations inc, limit those who can come to the church congregation itself, or the neighborhood, and then eventually just residents of your city.

The sad truth is, for every family out there who truly needs the help, there are 2 that will come just because they see a chance at getting something for free.

3. No one can monitor the church 24/7 just in case someone comes, so when you start to put the word out pick one day, or a day and time ie food pantry open Thursday from 1-7 or something like that

4. Its ok to state that the food is free, but donations are accepted and welcome- and use anything from that to help replenish your supply

Every sunday my husband's church scrolls a list up on the screen of what the pantry is running low on so that people will know what to add to their own shopping list that week. It helps if you get ahead of it, before you run out.

I'm not sure about where you live, but I live in a town of a population of about 6000. Their food pantry is open to anyone that lives in our town and on average they get 8 or 9 families a week. I'm sure with the rising cost of gas and such that number will increase.
What a great idea, Dondi!

I had a thought- not necessarily for you, just for me or in general. I wondered about if anyone had ideas about this or have heard of anyone doing it.

Rather than a pantry, where things are stocked and you need space and a time to be open-

A shopper-help list where a church can adopt some families in need and get a list of fresh items each week (along with things like cleaners, diapers, paper products) to give them based on their family size and needs?

I was wondering about this for a few reasons. First, that I don't belong to a church at this point, but I'd love to organize something like this. I'm going to try out going to local Quaker meetings, but the Quakers don't have their own church either (locally)- the nearest Quaker meetinghouse is about a 1/2 hour away. Secondly, that around here we have excellent and cheap organic produce, fresh baked bread, and so forth- seems like that would be healthier than canned items but of course you have to have the items go right to where is needed. In my area there is an organic family farm that delivers boxes of produce for about $23-30 a week (depending on family size), and I was thinking if even just three people pitched in $10 a week on their own grocery bill- that would buy a family of 4 a box of organic veggies and fruits.

I haven't thought this through at all, but Dondi's post sparked my thoughts and I wondered if anyone's heard of any programs that handle it this way. Like a church member could agree to add a few set products for a particular family every week to their shopping list so that a family in need always had their basics covered. There might be all kinds of problems with this idea, but I just figured it might be something that would work for people who don't have a church or place to store and hand out food- if local enough, food could just be collected by one person in a box and delivered.
Sounds like a fine idea, path. I live near an Amish community that might provide similar stores.

The whole idea for starting a food pantry at this particular point in time is because many folks are feeling the pinch of rising gas prices and are sacrificing food on their table for transportation to work. I hope to provide some element of relief to some needy families in this sitation.

Actually, I was thinking of starting small, like just having a storage facility at my church and stock with non-perishable items, like canned goods and boxed items. These items would be supplied primarily by members of my church, who when they go shopping for their weekly groceries would be mindful of picking up a couple items to add to the pantry. Since space would be limited, then there would have to be a limited to how many families we would be able to help. We would start out by helping needy members of our church. There are also bus kids whose families come from poorer neighborhoods that could use the extra groceries. And also, we recently started a Spanish ministry outreach, which may have families who have recently immigrated but are on the lower end of the labor force.

Beyond this, we would have to really be organized. Researching thus far, I didn't realize just how much work is involved in such an endeavor. If one wishes to use a food bank beyond church doors, there are certian criteria one must abide. State laws often require non-profit status (which as a church we have), proper storage facilities, and other regulations for running a food bank. It costs money to run a larger opration like this. And it does require many volunteer hours to keep this operating: inventory, record keeping, transportation of goods, distribution, etc. It's a business.

Well, I'm taking baby steps. I'm in the feasibility phase at the moment. I haven't even approached the pastor yet with the idea. I just want to make sure that there is a need and that it is doable.

I like your idea about a shopping list. We could solicit a flyer announcing our pantry to those we think could use it and ask those interested in submitting list of items they prefer. That way, we aren't just stocked up with black-eyed peas and collard greens.
If I were to start one, I'd get around and enlist other churches to help, encouraging them to pick a month for their drive and working to stagger those across the year so you have a steady supply. Contact the scouts and tell them you are there for Scouting for food.

Our church talked about starting a pantry but decided instead to support the existing one. We have a food pantry at a Presbytarian Church, they call it an interfaith pantry, insuring everyone knows it is open to all.

I've worked with them in sorting and stocking. Other folks I know have worked on the supplying side, I agree with the recommendation of keeping specific hours, but also keeping an emergency number listed and a group of volunteers who are on call for such things.

The pantry keeps other churches who help supply apprised of types of food they need all the time...or particulars they are starting to run short of.

Cubscouts and Boyscouts annually do food drives to help supply local pantries. One week handing out bags and the next weekend picking up and delivering. Our pack regularly gatthered and delivered about 1000 pounds of food.

Our church annually does a drive to help stock with money and food. This year we went to the local grocery store and asked for a donation of paper grocery bags. Then I had the teens write on the bags, YOUTH FOOD HARVEST, Help stock the food pantry!! and then we had the little kids decorate the bags, stamping on hearts and stars, coloring pictures, and sometimes the little ones just those big glorious circle/spirals they like to make. We then handed them out for three weeks at the end of service asking folks to bring them back in full...of either food or money their choice.

We have 120-130 any given Sunday and brought in over 1800 pounds of food, our largest drive ever. Many folks commented the bags helped them, they had a reminder sitting on their kitchen counter to fill. And they tended to fill the paper bags full, where the plastic bags don't hold as much.