Before the Oregon Area Food Pantry got a new home on 103 N. Alpine Pkwy. a little over a year and a half ago, it was open for only four hours. That number will expand to 14 hours in April when the pantry will be open from 9-11 a.m. Tuesdays and 4-7 p.m. on every second and last Thursday of each month.
With that expansion may also come a partnership with Anderson Farm County Park for potential organic raised bed garden spaces, and Kwik Trip’s Feeding America program to obtain foods close to their expiration date, said managing director Diane Sliter.
“(Pantry visitors) have to trust that we will be able to fill their food needs,” she told the Observer. “It’s their store.”
Pantry board of directors chairman Tom Kirchdoerfer said with needs growing in the community, the limited hours weren’t enough, with patrons left waiting two-and-a-half weeks to get food. Families are often lined up for an hour before opening on Tuesday mornings.
“We want to be more reliable than that,” he said. “I just don’t believe in making people wait.”
As demand grows, the pantry may consider daily hours sometime in future. Part of that reason is the volume of volunteers available to help out. Kirchdoerfer said when they are prompted to sign up for a shift, slots can fill up in as little as 20 minutes.
Being open more often lessens the amount of staff needed per shift and allows for a more “even flow” of pantry users and volunteers, he said.
With more hours, also may come more food options, especially during the summer months.
The potential partnership with Anderson Farm County Park could mean more fresh produce from the park’s 310 acres of woodland, prairies and agricultural land.
Teaming up with Kwik Trip’s Feeding America program may consist of picking up foods close to their expiration date from Oregon locations and distributing them to local individuals and families in need — but Sliter said that won’t come until there are even more hours.
For now, the chair and managing director said it’s about supporting the growing need for food resources in Oregon.
Both Kirchdoerfer and Sliter said volunteer staff likes to promote a “family-like” atmosphere when visitors come.
“Having that atmosphere of welcome really promotes people to come and keep coming” Kirchdoerfer said.