The Jefferson Area Community Food Pantry, which serves over 80 families in the Jefferson and Somerville area, continues its search this winter for a permanent home.
“If anyone has any idea about how to help us, we would love to hear it,” said Allison Brooks, the pantry’s director.
The pantry is currently housed in St. Giles’ Episcopal Church on Gardiner Road in Jefferson. Brooks said that while the pantry is grateful for that space, it is seeking a more spacious location in which to set up a permanent operation.
“We are very happy to have St. Giles’ continue to host us,” said Brooks.
However, the large quantities of food that cycle through the pantry take up most of the space that the church has to offer. Add to that the pantry’s bulky freezers, storage units, and the bustling of the 12-16 volunteers who help facilitate food distribution, and the limited space becomes a significant issue, Brooks said.
Because the space is first and foremost a church, pantry volunteers must fully set up and deconstruct their operation each distribution day – a task that requires a good deal of stair- climbing, since the pantry stores their food and equipment in the church basement, Brooks said.
Due to the stairs, “the first thing I ask people who want to volunteer is, ‘how are your knees?’” Brooks said. “It wears you down. It’s rough work.”
Moving into a one-story facility would ease some of the stress on volunteers’ joints by eliminating the need to cart “thousands of pounds” of meat and other foods between floors, Brooks said.
Setting up and tearing down the operation repeatedly adds hours of extra labor to the weeks of pantry volunteers, especially Brooks herself, she noted.
Another feature the pantry is seeking is a larger parking lot. According to Brooks, in order to accommodate the more than 80 families that the pantry serves on distribution day – which occurs every two weeks – the facility would need as much as three acres of parking.
While Brooks said that she would love to see hunger eliminated and hopes that the pantry can help forward that goal, the cost-of-living crisis is making food insecurity more prevalent.
“It’s getting scarier for working families,” she said; senior citizens who live alone or don’t drive may also struggle with food insecurity.
With few options for purchasing groceries in the area, Brooks said, Jefferson is something of a “food desert,” further increasing the need for the services offered by the Jefferson Area Community Food Pantry.
Moving into a better-suited space would help the pantry better serve those who require assistance in the Jefferson and Somerville areas, Brooks said. Finding that location, however, has been tough.
“We haven’t been able to find a good fit,” Brooks said.
In addition, the pantry’s financial resources are limited, Brooks said, with fundraising efforts struggling to cover the cost of the food it distributes.
For now, Brooks said, the pantry is glad to call St. Giles’ home, and will continue serving the community from the building on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month. The pantry will also continue their search for a suitable permanent home in the Jefferson and Somerville area, from where it can more efficiently serve the community.
For more information about the Jefferson Area Community Food Pantry or to suggest an idea for a possible future location, call 315-1134, email email@example.com, or find the organization on Facebook.