Milford Community Pantry provides more than food for those in need
The Milford Community Food Pantry, located in United Methodist Church Avenue, offers more than food for those who have gone through tough times. Pantry volunteer Tita Lewis said the project began over 30 years ago.
“We started a food bank here at Avenue a long time ago,” Lewis said. “It was the idea of the pastor and a parishioner who felt that we had to help the less fortunate in the community. The churches in the area realized that they all offered a similar service, so they came together to create the Milford Community Pantry and we have been going there ever since. The pantry is supported by the community and many local churches.
The pantry, which is open Tuesday and Friday every week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., offers those in need five full meals. Mountaire donates poultry which the volunteers then separate into bags and freeze. Other items are donated by community members, local churches and others. Panera also donates items to the pantry, allowing her to supply bagels and breads from the famous restaurant.
“We try to provide as much healthy meals as possible,” Lewis said. “We know that a lot of processed foods are not healthy, but many people who live in poverty buy them because they are reasonably priced. At one point we were getting these packets of tuna casserole and decided to do so so we could taste it. It really wasn’t that good. Now we give them tuna, cream soup and noodles which are so much better. “
Lewis explained that when the pantry started, the Delaware Food Bank did not provide food to individuals. Instead, they donated any food collected to local organizations, including the Milford Community Pantry. After the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the food bank began offering drive-through food collection programs, which reduced the number of people using the Milford Community Pantry.
“We feed about 50 families,” Lewis said. “There used to be over 100 of them, but with the pandemic, a lot of places are offering boxes of food, so there is more supply and less demand. Before the pandemic, we were open five days a week, but we closed for a while because of the virus and decided to reopen two days a week. In July we try a night pickup for those who can work during the day and can only come in the evening. We ask that if you can come here during the day that you continue to do so to allow more people access to the pantry on the nights we are open.
Milford Community Pantry doesn’t limit its support to food. In addition, they provide laundry soap when they have it in stock, toilet paper, diapers and wipes. They do not stock Pull-ups but do have diapers in sizes Newborn to 6. Anyone who needs diapers receives 24 diapers as well as wipes. Lewis said there have been people who pick up their items and are emotional because they have something as simple as toilet paper. A woman told her that she had not had toilet paper for three days when she saw the roll in her bag.
“Everyone gets frozen meat, whether it’s chicken, burgers or hot dogs,” Lewis said. “We also provide them with cheese, cereals, canned mixes, providing them with just enough items to prepare five meals. Everyone also gets a voucher which they bring to Redner to buy milk, eggs and bread.
The entire pantry is run by volunteers and Lewis explained that Diane Dolan was responsible for keeping the pantry organized and stocked.
“Diane needs recognition because she’s here every day,” Lewis said. “It’s a lot of work and she spends a lot of time making it easy for all of us. The woman who set up this pantry worked at the Lutheran Social Services in Wilmington, so she was very aware of the needs of a community. She felt that anyone can go through difficult times and that being poor doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be treated with dignity and respect. We strive to continue this mission today.
About 10 years ago, the pantry was in danger of closing for lack of funding. Lewis went to the Milford Lions Club and ended up filling out a grant application for their annual nonprofit agency program. The club gave her almost the full amount she asked for, keeping the pantry open and allowing them to add the Redner coupons. The funds raised are used to buy the vouchers.
“God has provided and here we are,” said Lewis. “Anyone who wants to donate can donate to Avenue or their church. We do accept food donations, but we ask that you check the expiration dates as we do not want to donate expired food. Lewis said they have also been supported by the Milford Rotary Club and other charities in the city.
In 2020, the Milford Community Pantry distributed the equivalent of $ 22,854 in food as well as $ 1,045.66 in Redner vouchers, helping 372 families, 627 adults and 459 children. Since they started tracking the number of people helped in 2004, that number has increased from 1,482 to 2,242 in 2019.
“We are giving food to families that follow guidelines set by the government,” Lewis said. “Some who come to us arrive with a social services slip. We ask you to provide us with a driving license. Right now we are providing food to everyone who comes in and says they need it because we know things are tough because of the pandemic. “
The Milford Community Pantry will open on July 14 from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., and volunteers hope to continue the night program on 2sd Wednesday of each month. For those who come to the pantry at night, volunteers ask for proof of employment and a valid driver’s license. The pantry is located at 20 North Church Street in Milford.
Betsy Price is a freelance writer from Wilmington with 40 years of experience, 15 of them with the News Journal in Delaware.