Food pantry staying busy

Stephanie Vallez · Wednesday, November 22, 2017
The West Liberty Foods Pantry has been available to those who need it on Saturday mornings from 9-10 a.m. for more than 30 years. They will now be adding to their hours Thursday evenings from 6-7pm.

The food pantry is located at First Church United at 1100 N. Calhoun and is overseen by Dave Baker and his wife, Bertie.

“We made the transition from an emergency food pantry to a sustainingvisionary partner food pantry.  Our doors are open and the guests come in and shop just like any store,” said Dave Baker, coordinator of the West Liberty Voluntary Action Council.

It does look like a small grocery store, with well-organized shelves of canned goods and dry goods in tidy stacks.

The two large chest freezers are filled with frozen hot dogs, ground beef and ground venison donated by local hunters. There is a cabinet that holds personal items, like soap and shampoo, as well as paper products.

The food pantry offers free groceries to low income families in the community, which includes the entire West Liberty School District, from Nichols to Atalissa.

This service is made possible by donations of food and money from the community. People like Dave and Bertie Baker volunteer their time to make sure the food is getting to those who need it.

“We see an average of 27 families a month,” Baker said, “about 100 people.”

“Our signs and handouts are printed both in English and Spanish,” Baker said. “

“Bertie and I do not speak Spanish but we have a volunteer that is bilingual that is here quite often. In a pinch, I use the translator app on my smartphone, which has gotten messages across. I have had a few visitors that bring a translator with them.”

Right now the volunteers at our local churches are working together with the food pantry to make sure everyone has what they need this winter.

It is nearly time to deliver the Christmas Boxes, a program that makes sure every family can have a 12 pound turkey, five pounds of potatoes and a gallon of milk.

“We ordered a hundred of everything,” Baker said, and if more is needed the food pantry can find a few more. They are working with Jeff’s Market to get the food to those who need it.

“We average 100 families applying for a Christmas Box. Applications are supposed to be returned on Friday, Dec. 8,” he added.   

Christmas Boxes also include a toy for kids under 12. Toys are donated from the community and are given based on the age and gender of the child.

The food pantry will be using its now empty refrigerator to hold those 100 gallons of milk until it gets to the families who sign up for a Christmas Box. Last summer, this refrigerator held produce from the Community Donation Garden.

“The volunteer garden,” Baker said, “produced over 600 pounds of fresh vegetables that were distributed throughout the summer months.”

Some readers and volunteers may remember the 30 by 50 foot garden behind First Church United.

“It came here first,” Baker said of the vegetables that the garden produced, “and on Sunday if things weren’t going to keep the whole week, one of our members took it over to the nursing home and they used it. So it was used someplace in the community, but we had first crack at it.”

Baker hopes that the food pantry is helping everyone who needs it.

“The number of families visiting the food pantry does not correlate with the Backpack and Christmas Box programs, which leads me to think we are missing people somewhere along the line,” said Baker.

If they are missing people, he hopes the new hours will create more opportunities for low-income families to come by and get the support they need.
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