By Melanie Yingst
MIAMI COUNTY — It’s the first place they think of when one is in need.
That’s the philosophy which drives the volunteers at First Place Food Pantry to assist local families and community members to help place food on their tables.
Feeding more than 40 families per day, First Place Food Pantry recently moved its food pantry distribution center to 721 Lincoln Ave., Troy, to help feed those in need in a larger space.
“It’s set up just like a grocery store now — people will have more room,” said director Donna Wilkerson. “We needed the space. This move was a good move.”
In May, the First Place Food Pantry fed the highest number of local people in one day — 89.
Wilkerson attributed the record number to many factors such as cuts in food benefits, the rise in insurance costs, families moving back home and work hours being slashed.
“The most we ever served was 89 families in one day this May,” she said. “The increase could be based on all kinds of reasons. We’ll help as many people that need it.”
The First Place Food Pantry started in the secretary’s office of Troy’s First United Methodist Church in 2001. The need grew quickly and donations swelled to move the pantry across the street to the organization’s contemporary worship and community space at the First Place Worship Center.
“The church is expanding and growing so we needed this space,” Wilkerson said. “It started in the secretary’s office and it’s grown to what it is today in just 13 years — it’s amazing how much it has grown.”
The pantry is now set up much like a grocery store with fresh fruit and vegetables from local sources like major grocery chains. Meat in the freezers and refrigerators are stacked on the shelves. Bakery items from local grocery stores are stacked high next to jars of peanut butter and canned goods.
One need that remains high all year is fresh produce, Wilkerson said. Donations of fresh vegetables, especially green beans, are always welcome. Donations from local community and individual gardens are welcome this time of year.
“Green beans fly off the shelves,” she said. “We will take all the fresh produce we can get. One elderly lady shared that if it wasn’t for First Place Food Pantry, she wouldn’t have fresh vegetables at all. Fresh produce is expensive and its shelf life is limited, so often many people go without. Here, we will gladly take any donations of garden fresh food.”
Donations of food and dry good items are welcome all year long, Wilkerson said. The need rises in the summer due to children being home more often than during the school year.
“We need donations all year long especially for families in the summer. They have children at home all day who are ‘eating them out of house and home,’” Wilkerson said.
Items such as paper products, general medication, lotions and other personal items are also welcome.
The First Place Food Pantry also has partnered up with the Miami Valley Music Festival in August. Concert-goers are asked to bring a donation of canned goods, which will benefit the pantry.
The pantry is open to accept donations from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The pantry is open to those in need from 1-3 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Proof of residency is required.