Food Pantry sees dramatic increase in need

Jackson Newspapers
Jackson Newspapers

In the midst of the COVID-19 health crisis, sometimes the most basic needs are forgotten. Feeding a family is more difficult at this time due to job loss, hour reduction, quarantining, or dealing directly with the virus.

Calvary United Methodist Church’s food pantry has seen that food need grow each month since March.

“In the month of November, we served 1,180 people from 407 families,” co-chair of the pantry Faye Milhoan said. “We’ve averaged 300 families per month since the pandemic began. People are truly in dire circumstances.”

Keeping the shelves stocked with needed items has become more of a challenge. Church members give financial assistance, along with a few area churches, and other groups.

According to Milhoan, funds are having to be stretched to help more families.

Two sources of free or discounted supplies, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Mountaineer Food Bank, are becoming less available.

The pantry has received an average of 4,161 pounds of commodities per month from USDA which is approximately 35 percent of the food distributed. Milhoan said they received recent notice that this amount will drop by 50 percent due to supply chain issues on the federal level.

“The food we get from USDA is vital,” Milhoan said. “We don’t always know what we’ll get but it fills a lot of the canned food needs.”

Mountaineer Food Bank, which allows pantries to select food at a deep discount, has seen a larger statewide demand.

“It’s a matter of timing to order from them,” Milhoan said. “Sometimes the items are not available by the time we can log on to the site.”

Calvary’s pantry, which distributes twice a month, is one of the most heavily used in the county.

“We’re seeing so many people come through for the first time because they’ve lost their jobs,” Milhoan said. “Many on fixed income rely on us as well. The stories people share can break your heart. We don’t refuse anyone in need.”

The distribution is currently drive-through due to safety precautions. The prepared boxes are enough for a family of four, but adjustments are made for larger families. Volunteers from the church supply all the labor.

Monetary donations would be the best way for the community to help the pantry. Food donations are welcomed also (see info box).

“The people we serve are so grateful,” Milhoan said. “We hear a lot of ‘thank you so much’ and ‘God bless you.’ It blesses us to be able to help them.”

For additional information, contact Calvary United Methodist Church at 304-372-3203 between 8 a.m. and noon, Monday through Friday, Mike Wilt at 304-761-4619, or Milhoan at 304-372-3288.

Calvary UMC Food Pantry

205 N. Court Street

Ripley WV 25271

December distribution: Thursday, December 17, 7 am-11 am

Normal distribution: First and Third Thursdays, 7 am-11 am

Items most needed (all store-bought)

• Pasta

• Dried Beans

• Cornbread mix

• Peanut Butter

• Canned meats

• Canned fruit

• Canned vegetables