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Caring Beyond the Canned Goods

Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service Food Pantry opened in its new location in early October.

“Give us this day our daily bread“ is a verse in The Lord’s Prayer. It is a well-known prayer usually whispered when prayed.

And this phrase is usually whispered, too: “Oh good. Toilet paper.”  

Toilet paper is an answer to a prayer to clients at Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service Food Pantry.

Bread and toilet paper.  

In my home, these items are necessities. They probably are in your home, too. When my family and I sit down together for dinner and say a prayer before we eat, we always thank God for “the food in front of us,” among other things. I’m thinking I’ll add paper products.

In the new space that is the Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service Food Pantry, there is plenty of room for both food and paper products. I took a tour on the third Thursday the pantry was open to distribute food. Previously the building was a church facility owned by the Church of the Shepherd, a United Methodist Church.

The Care Service has been at this location since July 2009; the food pantry is the last program to move into the building. The first room I toured of the pantry was floor-to-ceiling canned and packaged goods.

“We pre-pack the groceries each week according to a menu,” said Jan Hooker, food pantry coordinator.

She pointed to a board with numbers, which listed the number of people in each family they serve from smallest to biggest. This week there are 30 one-person households and one family of 10.

Hooker was eager to show me the covered entryway and intake room. “No more waiting outside,” she said. But she got really excited when she took me to the new cooler and freezer. Each is 12 feet by 18 feet to hold dairy products, produce and frozen food - twice the size of the former freezers.

To get to the cooler and freezer we went through a large sorting and packing area. This place was busy with volunteers moving crates and cartons of all types of food. Bread, dairy and produce. There was a lot of bread. Hooker said that they received a donation of 150 pounds of fresh produce. 

The food pantry is open each Thursday evening. All pantry clients must be registered with the Care Service and must meet residency, income and other requirements for aid. The Care Service assists people in St. Charles, Lincoln and Warren Counties. On Oct. 20, 128 families came through the pantry.

“Not all of them come every week,” Hooker stated. And on average, she continued, the pantry is serving more families on a weekly basis than it did even three years ago.

Currently, the Care Service pantry is participating with the Thanksgiving No Hunger Holiday project. So far, 186 of its 226 active registered pantry clients have signed up for this meal program.

The Thanksgiving meal that is provided is complete and satisfying. The pantry personnel would like to add to each meal so that it is abundant and overflowing. It is accepting supplemental side dish items for the No Hunger Holiday food boxes until Friday, Nov. 18.

Hooker assured me that the pantry can always use donations of canned goods, but that a food pantry is more than just canned food products.

It’s toilet paper, too. Hooker said that in a month the pantry needs 2,000 rolls of toilet paper so each family can have four rolls a week. Toilet paper is one item the pantry can't always give out.

“Don’t worry that your donation is not a lot," she said. "Two or three cans. It is a lot. Everything you give is important. Everything helps. It does."

I phoned Hooker after last Thursday’s distribution and 135 families received bread and other food. Toilet paper would have to wait for donations.

Jeanne Malmberg Spencer November 01, 2011 at 01:47 PM
I used to work at the Arnold Food pantry and I learned so much from the men and women who keep the place running. At the time I worked there, only the director was paid, the rest was volunteers, a regular staff of about 15. My 3 year old son and I would show up a few times a week and there was always something we could help with. I even helped set up the thrift store that developed out of donations. The thrift store was valuable in providing a way to pay for rent, gas, repairs and such, all of which keeps the place running. I miss working at the pantry, I gave it up when I moved to St. Chas, but I'll never forget the time I worked there. I met some wonderful people who gave me a broader view of the world. I considered many of the volunteers extra grandparents for me and my children. The director at J & A is correct, every little bit helps. The items the food pantries need most are often the more expensive items, like canned meat, laundry soap, peanut butter and paper goods. If each family that sends in a donation, gives a bottle of soap or a package of toilet paper, then the pantry would have enough to last a long time. I usually set a limit of $20 for my donation, and then buy as much of the more needed items as possible. Also, remember they need help year round, not just the holidays. Stock usually runs quite low by February, after all the generosity of the holiday season. Thank you for publishing this story.
Kemery Baldwin November 02, 2011 at 01:56 PM
Thank you, Jeanne, for sharing your experience volunteering with the food pantry in Arnold. You gave perspective and suggestions from your hands-on time in this type of outreach agency. Your comments are appreciated.

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