MIAMI COUNTY — Tucked away between Lincoln and Grant streets, the First Place Food Pantry is abuzz with activity as people young and old load their carts with fresh meat, fruits and vegetables, bread and other sustainable meals.
The First Place Food Pantry will open its doors to the public on Sunday, Nov. 18, from 12:30-3:30 p.m. to showcase how the non-profit “grocery-store” operates and feeds thousands of people in the Troy and Casstown communities all year. The open house will feature tours and open conversation with volunteers, board members and others about the pantry’s mission.
While the pantry first started in the First United Methodist Church’s secretary office in 2002, the church only provides 15 percent of the non-profit’s expenses. The overhead costs of running the pantry are approximately $70,000 a year including rent, utilities to run the pantry’s deep freezers and refrigeration systems, maintenance for the pantry’s van which picks up donations and other expenses.
According to board trustee Ed Butcher, the board is currently in the beginning stages of its strategic plan to move the organization away from its emergency funding sources such as grants. The board is exploring unique ways “to keep the lights on” for the pantry to keep its doors open to all of those in food crisis in Troy and Casstown.
Director Donna Wilkerson helped a young mother scan milk, eggs, bread and items to help her stretch her food budget. Wilkerson’s friendly smile and warm demeanor matches the dozens of volunteers who help unload trucks or who help each patron select items to make sustainable meals during their monthly visit.
“The people we serve has shifted to grandparents who have grandchildren in their home mainly due to the opiate crisis,” Wilkerson shared. “People are also under the impression the people we serve don’t work. They do work, a lot of them work, but are still unable to make ends meet so they come here to make their food budget stretch. Sometimes they come once, or for several months and then they are back on their feet.”
The pantry also is self-service where patrons select their own food, including diabetic-friendly options, vegan and gluten free, to serve the dietary needs of all patrons. Volunteers serve as personal shoppers to help select items throughout the pantry.
First Place Food Pantry, located at 721 Lincoln Avenue in Troy, is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and has a special senior program open to seniors on the second Saturday of the month. According to the 501c3 organization, 18,225 people were fed through their program in 2017.
The pantry is part of the Kroger Community Rewards and Amazon Smile programs and accepts donations on its Facebook page at FPfoodpantry online. Donations are also accepted directly at 721 Lincoln Avenue, Troy, OH 45373 or through the Columbus Foundation at www.columbusfoundation.org or designated through the United Way of Miami County.