LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – Outside Saint John’s Church Saturday afternoon, a line of people waited for canned goods and fresh produce.
Saint John’s/Lafayette Urban Ministries Food Pantry Director Steve Starks estimated 20 people would be outside. His estimate turned out to be a modest guess. Fifty-three individuals walked through food pantry, which opened its doors for the first time on a Saturday between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
“What we did, is we decided to stay open on Saturday and give the produce away as it comes in. It’s worked great,” said Starks
About 140 pounds of produce, ranging from spinach to strawberries, was made available by the Veggie Drop group. The group picks up extra food from local Farmers Markets and drops it off. Eighteen households took advantage of those fruits and vegetables, seven of which hadn’t visited the organization before.
The pantry, stocked with a variety of foods from canned soup, ramen noodles and frozen fish, was also open for those in need.
“We’ve had people simply coming in and getting produce and leaving, which I think is a great thing,” said Stark. “Sometimes, we have people backed up here for about an hour trying to get through the pantry. This way they can come in, they can grab stuff and they can leave.”
Cathy Collins and her 11-year-old son Connor have been coming the food pantry for nine months. She says she gets creative with what meals she makes for both of them.
“What brought me here today was the produce for sure. I keep coming back because 25 years a wife and mother and no education [means] I’ve got no jobs skills,” said Collins. “So I’m working for minimum wage and trying to make ends meet, and there’s no room in the budget for food sometimes. We do what we have to.”
Starks says the role of food pantries has evolved alongside that need.
“It used to be called emergency food. It’s no longer that. It’s almost necessity food now, and people count on this to supplement their diets,” said Starks.
Many people like Collins work but still qualify for the services provided by the organization. Having weekend hours helps accommodate many people that find themselves in a similar situation.
“Having things open in the evenings and weekends makes it easier for the people who are working otherwise they have to send somebody or they don’t get it,” said Collins.
After more than doubling his estimate, Starks adds that he wouldn’t be surprised to see the weekend’s service extended.
“I do think that we might have to expand our Saturday hours. I could see that happening,” said Starks.