Andes Food Pantry the latest in community outreach

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By Matthew J. Perry
A new food pantry located in the Presbyterian Church of Andes opened its doors for the first time yesterday. A modest operation at present, open just one day a week, its organizers are preparing to answer to greater community needs.
At present, the pantry will be open on Tuesdays, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Pastor Steven Swanson, who joined the church last September, states that long-standing parishioners recalled that a food pantry had been established in Andes some years ago. Considering the bleak economic climate that has spelled unrelenting hard times for many, many deduced that a revival of this type of community outreach was due.
“No one came out directly and asked for it,” Swanson said. Nevertheless, he began to make inquiries with two other pantries, located in Delhi and Margaretville. “The people there said they were pretty sure that a need exists in Andes. It’s been as hard hit as their communities.”
For practical advice on operation, Swanson consulted with Delaware Opportunities, which surveyed the church’s facility and provided nutritional guidelines for families. Since a designated space—along with two freezers—were readily available, the project quickly moved to the more critical details: soliciting donations and rounding up volunteers.
In this regard, the pantry was quick to get up to operating speed, thanks in particular to generous donations from Margaretville Telephone Company and the organizers of Margaretville’s own food pantry. “There are hot dogs and hamburger patties in the freezer now,” Swanson says. “We’ve got a lot of peanut butter. Now we need some jelly and bread to go with it.”
For the modest beginning, the staff is adequate, but volunteer Patty Buchina says that more help will be welcome, especially if the anticipated need materializes.
“Right now, we still need more volunteers and more donations,” she said.
While some pantries have limitations on how many visits a family or individual can make in a month, Swanson states that he can’t imagine turning anyone away if the need is genuine.
“With the economy being what it is, I think limiting people to one visit a month would be too restrictive,” Swan-son says. “I can’t imagine us saying that a person can’t have any food because they came in two or three weeks before. If we run out of food, we’ll see what we can do.”
As to donations, the pantry is not picky, although they would prefer that food be nutritious. Canned food, because of its shelf life, is always desirable, except if the cans are missing labels or badly dented.
If expansion is called for, the pantry will likely coordinate with other facilities so that it may operate when others are closed. If any clients are in need of other necessities, such as heating oil, volunteers will be prepared to connect them with other agencies.
Swanson described the effort, still in its infancy, as a means to “pull together. If everyone gives as they can and receives the help they need, the community is strengthened.”