Food bank ‘baffled’ by church’s recent commentsWritten by John P. McCartney | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Pilgrim Church staffers recently announced they have to cut its food pantry to once a week, citing an area food bank’s dwindling supply as the reason.
But the announcement surprised the Toledo Northwest Ohio Food Bank (TNOFB), where Pilgrim Church has actually picked up 10,000 more pounds of food this year compared to last year.
The 97-year-old church, located at 1375 W. Sylvania Ave., has operated a food pantry for the past five years, distributing food twice a week. On June 7, pantry program director Dawn Wilson reported to a Toledo broadcast media outlet that the church food pantry was “being forced to take away” a day of its pantry service “even though the need for the food is not dwindling.”
Wilson told Toledo Free Press Pilgrim Church was forced to eliminate Tuesdays as a food distribution day because the TNOFB is having trouble keeping its shelves stocked.
“There isn’t enough food for us to choose from,” she said. “A lot of times, we go down there, and they don’t have a lot to offer us.”
But James Caldwell, president and chief executive officer of TNOFB, disputed Wilson’s statements that his food bank couldn’t adequately serve its clients.
“We’re just kind of baffled,” Caldwell said. “I really don’t think they know what they’re doing. I’m not trying to be negative. I just really think it’s a lack of experience.”
Pastor Ellis Young stepped into his position at Pilgrim Church three weeks ago. Wilson has been food pantry program director for three months.
Barbara Grandowicz, TNOFB’s director of operations, said Pilgrim Church has received 35,000 pounds of food so far this year.
Wilson said one solution the church is pursuing is to find a second source of food.
TNOFB is not the only food bank in the city, but most people are unaware the Toledo Seagate Food Bank exists, said Deborah Vas, executive director of Seagate. She said the majority of the calls she receives come from food pantry operators who had only recently heard of her food bank.
When Wilson took the position at Pilgrim Church in March, she was not informed about the Seagate bank. While she’s not sure why the church has not used its services in the past, she said it is working on becoming a member.
Vas confirmed that Wilson has begun the application process for Pilgrim Church to become one of more than 400 nonprofit member organizations that the food bank services.
As of June 13, Vas reported that Wilson needs to submit a copy of Pilgrim Church’s 501(c)(3) (nonprofit) status. After receipt of that document, Seagate personnel will conduct an inspection of the church’s facilities, confirming the existence of a pantry room and documenting proper refrigeration and cleanliness standards, a process that Vas said may only take a week to complete.
“At that point, they’re notified that, yes, they will receive food,” Vas said.
Vas said she is puzzled by the public’s lack of awareness about Seagate. She also suggested that the responsibility of membership rests with the food pantry itself.
“I think those who may not be taking advantage of both food banks simply are not aware of Seagate,” she said. “And that happens. When a new organization calls, they’ll say, ‘Well, somebody told me … there’s another food bank. How do we get with you?’
“That’s the only answer I can have. If you find an organization that does not take advantage of both, I would ask them, ‘Are you aware that there’s two food banks? Are you aware that you can get something for free?’”
Other reasons for the elimination of Tuesdays for food distribution day included the cost of food, an increase in demand, the lack of an adequate number of volunteers and the concern that a few clients may be using the services in excess or as a “personal scheme.”
“We deal with a population that sometimes likes to ‘shoot the gaps,’ if you will,” said Young. “You were just here Tuesday, and now it’s Thursday. You’re back. … We don’t have a problem with that if the need is there. But sometimes we deal with gluttony. I think it’s becoming more and more common.”
But Young said the majority of Pilgrim Church clients truly need help.
“Understand, it’s not these bums out here who won’t work,” Young said. “A lot of times, these are fine, upstanding people who would do better if they could, who would be responsible for feeding themselves if they had the resources. They just don’t have them.” O