Food Pantry Update
Food Pantry Update
On June 1, the Coby Palmer Food Pantry at the Damien Center resumed its pre-Covid level of service, but it will operate a little differently than before.
“We want to better regulate our stock of food and hygiene supplies,” says Juliana Blount, the Food Pantry Coordinator. “Before Covid, the first of the month was really busy,” she says. “Understandably, as many folks get paid or receive benefits on the first. But it’s difficult to keep supplies constant that way.”
In order to manage supplies and allow for social distancing, the new system will assign each client three days they can access the pantry based on their last name. Clients only visit once a month now, they are provided with their month worth of food and Kroger card at that time – If they are eligible for the card. They will be able to pick one day in their assigned week to access the pantry. Once they come in for their monthly pick-up, they have to wait until the next month to come in.
The new hours of operation will be Monday & Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Friday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Clients will receive a bag of groceries, often fresh produce, sometimes ground beef or chicken. They also get a bag of personal hygiene items and a Kroger gift card if eligible. While the scheduling may have changed, the basics on how to access the pantry have not.
To be eligible a client must meet these criteria:
Be “Part B” Ryan White Fund eligible
HIV+ (Currently, clients who are on PrEP are not eligible, but the food pantry is looking to expand to those program participants in the near future.)
Have a Food Pantry referral (This can come from their care coordinator at the Damien Center, or from another service organization. This referral needs to be renewed every 6 months.)
The operation is a well-coordinated effort. “Our Food Pantry works with a variety of partners in the community,” says Chet VanWye, the Food Pantry Team Lead. “Second Helpings, Hatch for fresh eggs, and even a pet food service.”
In addition to the Food Pantry re-opening, the Damien Center will be bringing back a different iteration of Community Tuesdays, which was launched in January of this year. It will continue to provide a sack lunch that can be taken and eaten on the go every Tuesday and Friday at lunch time.
Prior to working at Damien Center, Chet volunteered at Community Tuesdays and had decades of experience in restaurant management, a clear asset in his new position with the Food Pantry. He loved Community Tuesdays. Before shutdown, “Second Helpings provided free lunches, clients were able to get together and socialize. It was great,” he says. Covid put a stop to the nascent program. “There won’t be the meals together until large gatherings are permitted again,” says Chet. But free meals will still be provided, again courtesy of Second Helpings. Beginning June 5th, clients will be able to stop by and pick up a lunch every Tuesday and Friday, from noon to 2:00 p.m. (And with any luck, the in-person Community Tuesday will resume in the future.)
The Food Pantry also keeps clients aware of additional resources too, such as Community Compass. This new service from Indy Hunger helps clients find other food sources when they and their families need it.
Chet and Juliana are both new to working in the Food Pantry. And, without a doubt, they are on the frontlines of assistance. Having a hungry person stand in front of you asking for help is humbling. And not just one hungry person – nearly 200 come through each month. “It’s very fulfilling,” says Chet. “Giving back feels good.”
“It’s overwhelming at times to see how much need there is,” says Juliana. “But at the end of the day, you go home and you realize you’ve helped somebody.”
If you or someone you know is seeking a volunteer opportunity, the Coby Palmer Food Pantry would welcome your help!