by Linda Klimach 3/31/19
Most of St. Clarians know about the Back Door Food Pantry, located in the Anderson-Wisdom House on the church grounds. Each week members of 80-120 families without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of nutritious food get to select various items from the shelves in the pantry. The majority of the food distributed each week are staples purchased from Food Gatherers: canned chicken, tuna, peanut butter, cereal, milk, soup, canned fruits and vegetables, pasta, fresh produce and frozen meat. The public face of the BDFP is the large number of volunteers who staff the welcome center in the Social Hall and the distribution center in the pantry.
But among the volunteers who work behind the scenes is a little known group of specialists: The BDFP Shoppers! Although many staples are offered in the pantry, a big favorite with the clients is the selection of random products obtained from Food Gatherers, to whom they have been donated by local grocery stores and collected in food drives. Items such as jam (to go with the peanut butter), coffee, tea, cookies, crackers, cheese, yogurt, cake mixes, baby food and condiments provide a welcome treat to families who generally can not afford more than the bare necessities.
These products are the objective of the Shoppers’ forays into the Food Gatherers warehouse. Along with other food pantries, BDFP has been allotted a half-hour period each week when 2 shoppers can select any items on the warehouse shelves for their organization. It’s a lot like those old reality shows where a contestant is given a cart and some period of time to choose anything in a store. Armed with a weekly list of items suggested by Ellie Davidson as in low supply, Shoppers from both STC and TBE go to town to fill as many grocery bags as they can in the time allowed.
Some years we are lucky to shop alone but some years we’re booked with another pantry – and then it becomes a race to get the items most desired by our clients before they’re all gone. After weighing out our haul, the Shoppers load up their cars and return to the pantry and stock the shelves set aside for these “Extras”. It can be a strenuous job to load and unload dozens of bags of goodies but rewarding to know that they bring joy to so many who have so little.