the food of life / comida de vida food pantry
Pantry Mission Statement and Philosophy:We provide fresh, nutritious food weekly for our neighbors in need, including vegetables grown in the on-site “Giving Garden”; and we offer information and referrals for a long-term improvement in their lives and health. It is our core value that all who come to the pantry find a cheerful, encouraging atmosphere where they are treated with respect: we believe having a full stomach and sense of dignity is crucial to an individual’s ability to begin making positive changes in their lives.
COVID-19 and the Food of Life/Comida de Vida Pantry:For eleven years, the Food of Life/Comida de Vida Pantry at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Amenia Union, has been feeding the hungry in our area. Now we are facing our greatest challenge since we opened during the Great Recession of 2009: due to effect of Covid19 on health and on jobs, the number of people seeking help is skyrocketing, with no end in sight.
Most of our guests are among the “working poor,” and Covid-19 is a catastrophe for this group. Even before the disease hit, Federal Reserve Board figures showed that a staggering 40% of the U.S. population is unable to meet a $400 emergency without falling into debt. Now, as millions are left unemployed, safety net systems such as ours will be under enormous pressure.
Here is some background information on how the pantry operates and how we hope to serve the people who have never needed us more than they do today.
What We Do:Every Friday from 3:00 to 5:00, we supply anyone in need with food for nine meals per week, with an emphasis on nutritious, vitamin-rich, healthy food. Visitors receive fresh vegetables and fruit, eggs, fresh or frozen meat, bread, milk, cheese, and canned and dry goods, as well as toiletries, paper products and diapers. Under normal circumstances, we are a “choice” pantry: recipients visit the pantry and choose from a list of offered foods, approximating a shopping experience that provides a sense of autonomy and also reduces waste. Due to the need at present to prevent contamination and operate at safe person-to-person distances, we now pre-pack food bags and distribute them in a “drive-through” from the church parking lot. We are committed to protecting our guests and our volunteers.
Who we serve:We serve the hungry population in eastern Dutchess County and northwest Litchfield County, especially the towns of Amenia, Wassaic, Millerton, Dover Plains, and Sharon. In some cases, recipients travel even greater distances looking for help that is not available closer to home. Some come from families who have lived in this area for generations; about 40% are new immigrants. Nearly half of those we serve are children for whom lack of nutritious food can have devastating consequences, including stunted growth, learning disabilities, increased health risks, and behavioral issues. Most are members of the “working poor,” for whom one emergency — illness, car trouble, temporary job loss — can swamp the budget and send them into crisis, with not enough money for food.
How We Do It:We purchase food primarily from the New York Regional Food Bank, which offers fresh and dry goods at very low or no cost; our pantry administrator buys about 2,000 pounds of food three times a month (additional trips may soon be necessary). We also purchase fresh vegetables from Freshtown Market in Amenia in winter months at a discount. Happily, we benefit enormously from in-kind contributions of fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs and bread from area farms, markets, and individuals. And finally, the on-site Giving Garden, staffed by a professional Master Gardener and volunteers, produced over 2,300 pounds of vegetables last year. The pantry is sited at and managed by St. Thomas Episcopal Church, whose priest, the Rev. AJ Stack, serves as Executive Director. Collaborations with other religious and civic groups and individuals are extremely important to its operation. Religious groups include Congregation Beth David, Amenia, NY; Grace Episcopal Church, Millbrook, NY; St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Lithgow, NY; and Sharon Congregational Church, Sharon, CT. Other business contributors include Paley’s Farm Market, Freshtown Market, Long Table Harvest, Maitri Farm, Wakefern (Shoprite Markets); Big Y Market. Community Groups include Sundays in the Country and the Millbrook School. And nothing we do would be possible without the support of a wonderful cadre of nearly a hundred volunteers.
Since the Beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic we have shifted our entire operation into the parking lot in order to allow our staff and customers stay socially distanced and safe. It has increased the work load 10 fold as all the groceries, dried goods, vegetables, meets and cheeses all have to be ready for distribution from 2-5 PM every Friday.
Our volunteer base has also tripled. A Friday use to be able to function with 6-7 volunteers now we have 20 on hand any given Friday both working inside and outside.
Another element of the food pantry that has changed is the increased need for food. The Parish house was once was a multi use space that served as our coffee hour, meeting room and storage for the food pantry food. Now we are overflowing with food ear marked for each Friday’s delivery of food with no space for anything else.
The most remarkable thing is that the food is never here for long. We cycle through this food rather rapidly.
Who Pays:Foundation Support is crucial to what we do. We thank Episcopal Charities of New York; The Berkshire Taconic Foundation’s Northeast Dutchess Fund; The Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley; The Dyson Foundation; and many family and corporate foundations. Gifts, large and small, from individuals, both in money and in-kind, are a hugely important foundation for the pantry’s operations.
Our generous neighbors...
Episcopal Charities of the Diocese of New York
Northeast Dutchess Fund of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation
Grace Episcopal Church, Millbrook
Sharon Congregational Church
St. Peter’s Church, Lithgow
Wassaic Fire Department
The Millbrook School
Paley’s Farm Market
Foundation for Community Health
Dutchess Responds Fund
NYS Department of Heath and Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program
Various scout troops in our community
Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley – Farm Fresh Fund
The Goldstone Fund, Inc.
Hallingby Family Foundation
The ZNM Funds
PNC Charitable Trusts
WOuld you like more information?
We need Volunteers for our weekly food pantry! If you can help please fill out the the form in the link below and we will contact you asap! Thank you for helping us serve our community! We are doing our best to keep the food pantry open through this crisis.