By Nicholette Carlson
WARSAW — Following the holidays and the start of a new year, food pantry donations typically tend to decrease. However, this year pantries, including those in Kosciusko County, are expecting the need to remain the same.
Kosciusko County Salvation Army serves approximately 250 people each month at its food pantry. While they are expecting donations to decrease after the holiday season, Ken Locke, director, mentioned they had received really good donations throughout the holiday season, particularly in the month of December.
“Things tend to slow down in January and February, so we have stocked up as best we can,” Locke confirmed.
Milford Food Bank recently received a new refrigeration unit so they are able to store more donated refrigerated and frozen goods. They continue to look for volunteers to assist with packaging donations for food pantries for the first Friday distributions each month. More fundraisers and money raising opportunities are being planned for the new year to help raise money for additional ways to help the community.
After the holiday season, the food bank will also be continuing the Wednesday food giveaways. The next giveaway is from 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 6. Currently the giveaways are every other Wednesday.
Beginning Jan. 1, Harvest with a Heart, the Milford food pantry, changed locations. It is no longer located at the corner of Higbee and Emeline streets. Now the food pantry is located at Milford First Brethren Church, 110 W. Catherine St.
Tim Frame, director of emergency assistance at Combined Community Services, commented, “With donations down, we still do fully expect the need for food to remain high at this time.” As soon as the pandemic hit last year, certain measures were put into place to meet the needs of the community and CCS saw a record number of residents needing assistance. Typically the pantry has been serving 50 to 60 people, though it reached a record number of 70 people in one day.
In order to continue to serve the community, Frame mentioned they increased the number of times a resident can visit from once to twice a month. If there is still a need in the family, CCS is committed to ensuring they have food. They have stocked up the best they can, but donations are still needed. The next food drive event isn’t until May with the annual Stamp Out Hunger food drive.
With a grant from the K21 Health Foundation, CCS was able to put a walk-in freezer and refrigerator unit in the pantry. “This allows us to take large donations of cold and frozen foods to store as we distribute these items to our guests,” Frame explained. They ensure quality and safety by taking the temperature of the meat prior to transport and after arrival, as well as by transporting any meat or frozen goods in their refrigerated cargo van.
CCS has partnered with the Food Bank of Northern Indiana to coordinate local food distributions at least once a month. CCS also does local donation pickup for the food bank at Kosciusko County stores. Those donations are then used by CCS to help feed the residents of Kosciusko County, ensuring all donations stay local.
Currently the food pantry at CCS has a drive-thru setup. Residents in need of assistance pull up to the loading dock. Those working at the pantry watch for people pulling up on a camera and bring out forms and pre-packed food to them. CCS also offers utility assistance and self-sufficiency programs to help individuals get back on their feet after a crisis, as well as partnering with other local organizations to get residents the help they need.
“The food pantry being here during this time is crucial,” Frame emphasized.
To find food pantries in your area, visit www.feedindiana.org/food-pantries and scroll down to Kosciusko County.