The Pantry, an innovative food bank, recently opened its doors in fresh, remodeled space near Fourth Street and Seventh Avenue in Flagstaff. The food bank is different from others in that guests can shop aisles of food just like at a neighborhood grocery store. The new entity is helping clients formerly served by the now defunct People’s Pantry. Sandy Berry, who managed the People’s Pantry, has been named executive director of The Pantry, which welcomes all members of the community, regardless of income, identification or place of residence.
The progressive concept of not requiring income, identification or geographic information was born, in part, out of Berry’s observations. “Most agencies require certain information to exclude people,” explained Berry. “I noticed that there were people – some of my friends – who were excluded because they made one or two dollars more [than the minimum] to get food stamps. We wanted to welcome all, regardless of income and that was our policy at The Peoples’ Pantry. We didn’t see any reason to change the policy [for the new non-profit].
“Flagstaff Family Food Center and St. Mary’s Food Bank have been very generous to us,” Berry continued. “We are under the umbrella of Flagstaff Family Food Center, and we are able to purchase food from St. Mary’s at a very reduced rate.”
“Once we get our 501(c)3, we’ll spin off and be our own non-profit,” said Blake Rolley, president of the newly created Golden Rule Charities, which operates The Pantry. “We believe in the collaboration of all entities that provide food and shelter.”
Many of The Pantry’s clients work short-term or part-time jobs in the trades or at restaurants. “They don’t have long-term work, so it is hard to save,” said Berry, who revealed that the average household income of those served is $969/month. “Which doesn’t get you anywhere, as we all know. That shows a lack of sufficient income. There are various places that help for rent, and I figured if we could help with $100 per month with groceries, then that would help.” Each guest household can shop for up to 15 pounds of food per week.
The Pantry, a member of the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, is looking for support from businesses, the faith community and individuals. “The biggest way that the business community can help is with financial donations. We will be starting in very short order a financial campaign,” Rolley said. The money raised will help buy fresh vegetables, milk, eggs and meats not typically donated to food banks.
“Even though we are all volunteers, we still have to pay rent and utilities,” added Berry. “Monthly contributions would be very helpful.”
The Pantry is also looking for organizations that would volunteer to conduct food drives such as the one sponsored by the Flagstaff Mall on Saturday, Oct. 20. Those bringing non-perishable food items for The Pantry will be entered into a raffle for a variety of gift baskets supplied by Flagstaff Mall merchants. The drive is held in conjunction with “Beat Bugs Sing Along,” a free community event where people will have opportunities to meet and greet the Beat Bugs characters and have photos taken with the characters as well as sing along to music made famous by the Beatles.
“I’d like the people in the business community to come in and visit The Pantry. We are always willing to take on volunteers,” said Berry, who describes the facility as “bright, cheery and clean.”
The Golden Rule Charities – The Pantry Board of Directors – is made up of Rolley, president; Berry, executive director; David Evans, treasurer; Beth Collier; Albert Kent; Danny Neal; Charlie Odegaard and Mike Thomas.
“We wanted to put together a non-profit that would be sustainable,” said Rolley.
The Pantry is open 3-7 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Donations of canned and boxed items can be dropped off during those times. Checks with Golden Rule Charities in the memo field may be sent to Flagstaff Family Food Center, P.O. Box P, Flagstaff, Arizona 86002. FBN
By Stacey Wittig, FBN