MIAMI COUNTY — September is National Hunger Awareness Month.
Since 2002, First Place Food Pantry has been serving the emergency food needs of those who live in the Troy and Casstown areas. Since March 15, due to the COVID-19 situation the food pantry has modified its operations to include all of Miami County, which almost triples the area and number of persons served.
“Our vision is a hunger-free community where everyone is nourished through respectful access to healthy food,” said Sharon Buse, a member of the non-profit’s board of trustees. “Our mission is to be the first place our community turns to end hunger, working with our neighbors to provide stability and hope to those in need.”
The organization, under the leadership of director Donna Wilkerson, provides food for about 400 households each month or about 1,200 people. The number includes 400-450 children from infants to 17 year olds.
Food insecurity in Miami County is more than 12 percent, according to Buse, also co-chair of Bowls of Hope, a fundraiser upcoming on Saturday, Sept. 12.
“Until this year our staff and community volunteers provided a selective shopping experience for our clients who are experiencing food insecurity,” Buse said. “We normally are able to provide a shopping experience where they can choose food items that best fit their family’s food preferences while also selecting items using the USDA Healthy Plate guidelines. We try to provide them with cooking tips and techniques that match their skill levels and available cooking equipment.”
Since March 15, staff and volunteers have modified the operation to a drive-through model. Clients are supplied with pre-prepared boxes of food based on household size. The clients are served in their cars and “we do our best to tailor what we provide to their needs,” Buse said.
“We also have arrangements with community volunteers and local law enforcement agencies to provide deliveries to those without transportation,” Buse said. “Delivery can be requested by calling, emailing, or messaging us through Facebook. In addition to food, the organization also provides personal care items.”
Buse offers ofther ways that the community can help:
She said volunteers are always welcome in a variety of jobs and the pantry always appreciates financial support for operating expenses for rent, utilities, maintenance, insurance, and salary.
“We anticipate that the need will increase and stay with us for several months until things return to normal from the current pandemic,” Buse said.
The organization’s annual Bowls of Hope Fundraiser will be held from 3- 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12 in the north parking lot at First Place Christian Center, 16 W. Franklin St., Troy. The event is being called “Take-Out Hunger,” and will feature a drive-through grilled chicken dinner. Buse said they also are working with a local chef to provide some extra special treats in the dinners. There will be live music, including Larry Lyons from 3-4:30 p.m., Jerry and Vaughn-LIVE from 4:30-6 p.m., Gotham City Brass 6-7 pm. and some other fun including raffles. We will have a Bowls of Hope “Boutique” featuring hand made items, garden mums, handmade pottery items, and other treats. This will be in a separate tent from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“We have had to cancel several fundraisers this year, so we are counting on this for about 25-30 percent of our operating costs,” Buse said. “We hope that people folks will drive through, pick up dinner, wave at our volunteers, enjoy a little music, and help us help our community.”
Tickets are dinner for $15 and raffle tickets are $10 and are available online at: https://bit.ly/2Y7roS0 or through the events site on the food pantry’s Facebook page.