By Stephanie Malench
Two local area food pantries had a successful weekend with donation drives held to fill the void left by the Boys Scouts canceling their Scouting For Food event that was to be held November 21. The St. Jacob Lions collected approximately 500 pounds of food to for the Ministries Unlimited Food Pantry and a group called Citizens For A Better Collinsville Township collected almost 4,000 pounds of food for the Maryville Food Pantry.
Not included in these drives is the Collinsville Food Pantry. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started back in March, the pantry has not been accepting food donations from the general public. Because of this, Angelica Lipham, the Food Pantry Director since 2016, decided not to allow the boy scouts to drop collected food off at the pantry either.
Lipham said that the boy scout food drives take at least 75 volunteers to unload and put away the food and there was no way to accomplish that with social distancing.
Additionally, Lipham said the CDC is reporting that “coronaviruses on surfaces and objects naturally die within hours to days”, and the pantry does not have the space to store food for unknown lengths of time since they do not say how many days it takes for the virus to die.
According to the CDC website: “The risk of infection by the virus from food products, food packaging, or bags is thought to be very low. Currently, no cases of COVID-19 have been identified where infection was thought to have occurred by touching food, food packaging, or shopping bags.”
Because the pantry serves vulnerable populations, Lipham says that they “wanted to eliminate as much risk as possible” and avoid breaking the law or doing anything that would jeopardize the pantry being shut down.
Each week, the Collinsville Food Pantry serves 200 school age children through the tote Me Home program, 25 homebound clients, and additional clients that come as needed. At the height of the pandemic, the pantry served 1800 individuals in one month, and has served 50% more customers this year than last year.
Lipham is not a fan of food drives in general. She said that last year during Scouting for Food, they collected 16,000 pounds of food and 1,000 pounds of it had to be thrown away because it was either out of date, the packages were damaged, they were open, molded, or even partially eaten. Or they donate what they think the pantry should give out.
Instead of food, Lipham prefers cash and gift card donations to Aldi, Schnucks, or Walmart so “we can buy exactly what we need” in bulk orders, such as pallets of macaroni and cheese, pasta, sauces, or vegetables that re delivered to the pantry shrink wrapped.
Because the food is distributed curbside, fixed menus of food are given out.
Lipham understands that people are not happy with the pantry’s decision not to accept food donations, but “we are protecting the community we serve the best way we can to the best of our knowledge.
She said that people who want to give food can take it to any of the blessing boxes in the area, including Webster Elementary School, Discovery Family Church, Word of Life Church, Collinsville Township, Maryville Police Department Parking Lot, Caseyville Police Department Parking Lot, Time Out in Troy, 1928 SrA Bradley R. Smith Boulevard in Troy, 4040 Olyvia Street in St. Jacob
Just make sure that the food you donate is not expired, unopened, and the packaging is not damaged.
Lipham also recommends calling the food pantry that you want to help and ask them what their needs are. She said it is not uncommon for a pantry to have a large quantity of pasta donated but no sauce to go with it.
Betty Cothran, Director of the Ministries Unlimited Food Pantry in Troy, said that they have not had any trouble getting the community to collect and donate food to make up for the Boy Scout food drive being cancelled, and are no longer facing a critical shortage of food.
However they will still accept donations of food, gift cards, or cash on giveaway days.
Cothran said distancing during donation drop off has not been an issue either, as they are doing everything at the pantry and not working in the church.