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Serving A Food Desert Community In The Midst Of Covid-19

Serving a Food Desert Community in the Midst of Covid-19

The St. Leo Food Pantry serves the Community of North Fairmount

By Casey Betz, St. Leo Parish Staff Member

The St. Leo Food Pantry currently serves more than 900 individuals representing over 300 families including 350+ children each month.  Our serving hours are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1:00 – 3:30pm.  Normally, we are a “choice” pantry where guests may choose, with guidelines  based on family size, which items they prefer.  So for a family of 1-4, 4-8, 8-12, they may choose X number of boxes of cereal, or X number cans of vegetables etc. This systems allows our guests to choose items that they like and that they will actually eat.  We strive to give each family about 2 weeks of groceries so that they don’t have to choose between paying the rent or food, or purchasing meds instead of food.  

We make every effort to provide not only shelf stable items, but also fresh fruits and produce, milk, eggs and dairy items, as well as frozen meats. We also try to provide personal hygiene items such as hand soap, laundry soap, bath soap, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shaving cream, razors, toilet paper, paper towels, feminine hygiene products and diapers.  While we are an associate of the FreeStore FoodBank and can get bulk food items at very low prices, much of what we provide comes from individual donors and church or school sponsored Advent and/or Lenten collections.

Covid-19 Restricts How the Community is Served

During the Covid-19 restrictions, we’ve had to go from guests actually walking up and down our aisles inside the building, to delivering boxes to our guests cars.  Even with that, we have been able to allow guests to make some choices while the volunteers fill the boxes and deliver them to the cars.

Food pantry volunteers prepare for food distribution.

It takes quite a few volunteers to make it all work, and our volunteers have stepped up!  They are wearing masks and gloves and social distancing faithfully. Their commitment to serve our sisters and brothers in need no matter the difficult circumstances is deeply appreciated by our guests.

What makes our food pantry so great is that we care so much for the folks we serve and model to them Christ’s commandment to care for each other. It is commonplace to see our clients help one another, without being asked, demonstrating a real sense of community, an indication that they not only feel Christ’s love, but are also willing to share. Caring becomes contagious! 

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