St. Thomas’ food pantry doors welcome guests every Thursday from 10-12
Nestled in what is known as Ginter Park in North Richmond, sits St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, a place of simple hospitality that has served the community since 1907. We visited St. Thomas’ a few weeks ago to learn more about their food pantry, which regularly serves people in the 23222 and 23227 zip codes. What we found was a highly organized food market with volunteers dedicated to serving the community.
The food pantry, part of a three church network including St. Paul’s Catholic Church and Ginter Park Methodist Church, is a market-style pantry where guests select the food they like to eat according to USDA nutrition guidelines.
The goal? To provide three meals for three days for each person in the household.
8-year volunteer Linc Sparks prepares to register guests of the food pantry.
In May, the food pantry served a record number of people: 282 households, totaling 1,114 people. This is up from 2012 (213 households), and 2011 (105 households).
To date for 2013, the food pantry has served 2,502 households, a total of 9,536 people.
St. Thomas’ serves people in the 23222 and 23227 zip codes — a restriction based on guidelines from the Central Virginia Food Bank as part of their effort to make sure food distribution is widely spread across the areas where food is needed.
At 19 cents a pound, the food is purchased through the Central Virginia Food Bank (CVFB), which is part of Feedmore, using funds from the church budget. Through CVFB, St. Thomas is able to access the USDA surplus food, which they receive for free and distribute according to specific guidelines set by the USDA.
St. Thomas is also a Food Rescue partner with the Food Lion on Chamberlayne Avenue, gleaning good food 2 times a week that would otherwise by discarded. Other supporters of the pantry include Panera Bread, and The Little House Green Grocery, among many other supporters who provide food on a weekly basis.
Grace Sparks and her granddaughter prepare pastries gleaned from Panera Bread
10 year old Lilly visits every summer from Ohio and serves as the “produce manager.” This is her second year volunteering with her grandparents.
Coffee, water, and pastries are prepared and served to guests waiting their turn at the food pantry. A focus on hospitality is the trademark of St. Thomas’ volunteers.
St. Thomas revamped their food pantry over a year ago — rather than giving guests a box of food, some of which the clients may not be able to eat because of dietary restriction — they allow guests to choose food for themselves using the USDA guidelines as a tool. The pantry is set up each week, resembling a market, and the people they serve are given a grocery bag where they can “shop” for the food that they are able to eat. The foods the pantry is unable to keep on the shelves include tuna, peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, and cereal. They offer a limited supply of perishable items, mainly because they do not have the means to store fresh food for long periods of time.
Ray A. Jackson, City of Richmond retiree and World War II Army Veteran, has volunteered at the food pantry since the 1960′s. He also helped The Farm Table blogger, Michele, pronounce Norfolk properly, the place where he grew up before moving to Richmond in 1952. He is St. Thomas’ longest running food pantry volunteer.
St. Thomas’ market-style food pantry allows guests to choose items they need based on USDA requirements.
Perishable items gleaned from local grocers like Food Lion and The Little House Green Grocer on Richmond’s Northside.
This is where Ampleharvest.org and you, our readers, come in. The site links home gardeners and other supporters to the nearest food pantry in the community who accepts perishable items. As gardens begin to flourish with an abundance of food, linking up your food surpluses with pantries in need is a wonderful way to offer the people who need it access to good, healthy, and fresh food.
Sharing from your garden is not the only way to give! Beginning this Thursday, June 20th, we will collect non-perishable items from Farm Table members who place canned, jarred, and boxed goods in their empty boxes. We will deliver them to food pantries in need, including St. Thomas’. We think giving back is one way we can broaden our food community, and we can do that with your help!
Food pantry volunteers, Ray A. Jackson and Bob Wiard, preparing to open the doors for guests waiting outside for the pantry to open. Today they celebrate one of their regular guests who is officially cancer free.
Looking for other ways to give?
Consider volunteering at your nearest food pantry. St. Thomas is always looking for volunteers to assist with gleaning throughout the week, or helping on Thursday mornings when their food pantry is open to the people who need it.
Food pantry volunteer and member of the St. Thomas community, Andrea Marcinkevicius, hopes to see more youth helping out at local food pantries this summer. “People of all ages and abilities can help!”, Andrea says.
Farm Table member and Ministry Leader at Gayton Care Ministries, Stacy Deyerle, says she regularly donates food from her Farm Table box to the pantry at Gayton Baptist Church in Short Pump. Deyerle says their pantry serves people from Goochland, as well as “folks dealing with a recent job loss or serious health issues.” Food donated to their pantry really helps people in need.
We hope you will join us in supporting your local food pantry this summer and beyond — as we all enjoy the bounty of the season, let’s share it with others.
St. Thomas Episcopal Church
3602 Hawthorne Ave
Richmond, Virginia, 23222
Food Pantry is open from 10:00am-12:00 noon on Thursdays
Tuesdays at 12:00 noon to help unload food purchased at CVFB.
Thursdays anytime between 9am-1pm
Gleaning, Tuesdays and Saturdays