By STACY MILLBERG - For the Star Beacon
The First United Methodist Church of Andover is helping to alleviate hunger in the area with its PV Area Community Food Pantry.
The food pantry was established in 2010 and has been going strong ever since, said Sandy John, coordinator.
The original large food pantry, the Mobile Pantry, started in June, 2010. Organizers made preparations for several months and then filed an application with the Cleveland Foodbank. The pantry’s food distribution was to serve the entire Pymatuning Valley School District area, she said.
On the fourth Friday of every month, a truck from the Cleveland Foodbank would arrive at 8 a.m. and a large group of volunteers would take the food from the pallets and organize it into categories, John said.
“The Foodbank tells us how much of each category a family receives based upon the size of the family,” she said.
From June 2010 until October 2012 there was no cost to get food from the Cleveland Foodbank and to have it delivered. It was announced in the summer of 2012 that there would be a charge of $250 to deliver the food starting in October 2012, she said.
“The community just rallied from October 2012 to the present,” John said. “Certainly this church would not be able to pay that much a month to provide the food.”
A letter was drafted and sent out to area businesses, organizations and clubs asking them to sponsor a month.
“Now we have enough money to pay for the food in advance,” she said.
John said the food pantry received enough donations to cover the cost of the food and delivery for all of 2013 and then some.
Many people in the area are served by this distribution. In the December 2012 distribution the pantry fed more than 500 people. Clients are required to live in the PV school district and provide proof of residency and fall within the federal poverty guidelines, John said.
Not only does the food pantry host the large distribution each month, but it has a smaller food pantry distribution on the second Friday of the month. The small food pantry is housed in the basement of the church. The small pantry opened in October 2010.
From October to March of 2010, the church was able to receive all the food needed to stock the small pantry from Country Neighbor at no charge. In March 2010 it was announced that only a small amount of food would be free and the rest would need to be purchased.
The church decided to place bins in 11 locations throughout the district to accept food donations. John said the bins take in a large amount of food which enables them to order only the free food from Country Neighbor.
The food pantry does take in monetary donations from time-to-time and the money is usually used to purchase items from the protein category, she said.
“Two items always needed at the small food pantry are tuna and peanut butter,” John said.
One thing residents may not realize is they are able to receive baby formula and baby food at the small pantry as well.
John said the small food pantry also received donations from churches, clubs and the schools among others. She said Pymatuning State Park held an event last year and asked those who attended to bring an item for the food pantry as the cost of admission. The local post office has also held food drives as well as the Pymatuning Area Chamber of Commerce.
John said during the summer months residents will bring in items from their gardens.
Anyone interested in donating to the PV Area Community Food Pantry can drop items off in one of the 11 bins located around the community. The bins can be found at Andover Bank, Andover First Congregational UCC Church, Andover First United Methodist Church, Andover Public Library, Cherry Valley United Methodist Church, Classy Clips Pet Grooming (cans only), Herbert’s Pharmacy, Hill’s Country Store, PV schools, Williamsfield United Methodist Church and Wright Place.
The bins are labeled and checked regularly. The food is removed and checked and then stocked on the shelves at the church, John said.
The small pantry is open on the second Friday of every month from 10 a.m. to noon. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact the church for more information.
“There are many, many people that keep this moving and they are not all from this church, they are from all over the area,” John said.