As end customers return home with their bags and boxes of food, the volunteers at the Edinburgh Food Pantry finish their work organizing their space on the city’s main street.
They stock shelves with non-perishable foods and other supplies. Products are packaged and stored in a group of refrigerators lined up in a side room. The waiting room is clean and ready for the next distribution day.
Two days a month, the pantry is open, and the pantry distributes food to nearly 40 families who struggle to eat. The organizers say their work is essential.
“I am amazed at how much we can give to these families that are coming in. Having more storage capacity would allow us to serve more families or give them more to help with their food budget,” said David Bowman, director of the food pantry.
Now, with the help of a grant from the Gleaners Food Bank in Indiana, the Edinburgh Food Pantry will be able to better serve the people in their community. The grant of more than $176,600 is for the purchase of a refrigerator, freezer, additional customer carts, an enclosed trailer, and a computer to help track customers.
These items will have a significant impact on Edinburgh residents, said Sloan Shockley Lewis, director of local service for Gleaners, which serves Johnson County.
“The store has set a standard. They have been a great partner to the Gleaners for many years, and it is exciting to see them grow up,” she said. “They worked hard to be good stewards of all gifts given to them, so we knew they could handle that amount of grant to get these items.”
Food insecurity and poverty touch every corner of Johnson County. The county had an estimated 6.7% of the population living in poverty in 2020, according to the Census Bureau. More than 15,200 residents are food insecure, including 4,150 children.
Using data from the Small District Income and Poverty Estimates, an estimated 14.4% of ECS students live in poverty.
Volunteers for the Edinburgh food pantry see a steady influx of area residents in need of food each month,[بومان]It said.
“We are seeing a huge need, but it was a lot more during COVID,” he said. “We had over 80 families coming every time we were open, while today we only had 39 families. That’s very typical.”
The Edinburgh Pantry was initially founded by the Edinburgh Ministerial Assembly, a united effort by local church leaders to address community issues. The group still operates the store, although they recently moved to a new name, The Edinburgh Fellowship of Churches.
Since the 1980s, a pantry has been provided to those in need. At one point, it was housed in the same building as a senior center in Edinburgh, and organizers distributed any donated items.
The task of maintaining the store was a commitment of the association.
“There is still a need. It is the mission of the Ministerial Assembly to meet the needs of the people, and that is an essential task,” said Nancy West, Fellow of Churches in Edinburgh.
Currently, the pantry relies on donations and community funds to purchase food, as well as items provided through Gleaners and Midwest Food Bank, to provide for their neighbors’ needs.
It was that relationship with the Gleaners that sparked the decision to apply for a grant.
Glenners is a leading company fighting hunger throughout Central Indiana, serving food pantries and organizing distributions in communities across the state.
One of their initiatives is the Partner Capacity Grant Program, which was created to help stores that need to upgrade equipment or facilities to provide fruits, vegetables and other fresh foods to customers.
“We have always promoted and encouraged our food stores to take advantage of the freshest produce we offer and help us get this great food to their neighbours,” Shockley Lewis said. “Sometimes these things need cooling or other equipment to make that happen.”
Applicants provide detailed information about what they need, the exact costs and how it will benefit the community around them. These applications are reviewed by the Glenners Committee, which then distributes the funds.
Shockley Lewis said that the unique situation in Edinburgh made her a candidate for the idea.
“Where they are, their pantry serves neighbors in three counties,” she said. “They have people coming from everywhere, serving anyone and not answering anyone.”
Shockley Lewis met with food pantry leaders in Edinburgh and discussed ways the grant could help. At first, the store officials were thinking scantly.
“She said there was a grant available, so we thought we could use some of the carts that work better and some new shelves,” said Joanne Hollenbeck, a member of the Fellowship of Edinburgh. She asked me: Is there no more? Isn’t there something big you can use it for? ”
One of the most significant upgrades achieved through the grant is the mobile heatsink and freezer. The pantry assembled a set of refrigerators and freezers to store donations and leftovers between distributions.
All of this can be made minimized with this new cooler and freezer. With more space, Hollenbeck said, they can also add more fresh food for customers.
“One of the goals when we wrote the grant was to allow us to provide more new items. What we have now, we can only do so much,” she said. “And sometimes if we don’t have enough neighbors to come in, and we have things left, we can better store them now.”
Hollenbeck said receiving the scholarship came as a shock.
“I cried. Sloan called me and said she was crying, and then I started crying.”
On May 23, representatives of Gleaners met at the Edinburgh Food Pantry to officially award the grant. They put up a huge check and celebrated with other town leaders the big push of the Edinburgh community.
“We are very excited to see how that will affect their distribution, to see what types of food they can get and store,” Shockley Lewis said.