This Agency Spotlight was written by Anne Condon, an Americorps member currently working as an Agency Relations Assistant in our Nutrition Programs Group.
By now you may have heard a lot about Twin Lakes Church and their support of Second Harvest Food Bank. But let us take this chance to recognize People’s Pantry, Twin Lakes’ very own pantry, and one of the oldest agencies at the food bank. The organization and execution of this pantry set a stellar example for other pantries in the community. Perhaps it’s the rows of perfectly sorted food boxes ready to be put in clients’ bags, or the Spanish-speaking volunteer that greets clients at the door, but People’s Pantry is undoubtedly characterized by a need to feed people fresh, healthy food in a clean environment.
On Wednesday mornings, 40 volunteers pack all of the food into individual boxes at the church. The pantry opens at 3:30, when the next group of volunteers arrives to help hand out the food and check clients in. The pantry serves up to 135 families per week, which translates to nearly 400 people.
Volunteer Bill Roome has created a menu on an Excel spreadsheet, planning out what the food bags will contain for the entire year, alternating between different meals, from spaghetti, to chili, to beans and rice, to tuna. His goal is for the families to have variety from week to week. Besides dry goods, clients also choose from an array of fresh produce and bread. You can see an example of the menu here:
But for all you small or beginning pantries out there, People’s Pantry didn’t always run such a large, successful operation. “This is much more organized than we were years ago where we just operated out of a big closet,” says pantry coordinator Jack Spurlock. It took several years to gain a volunteer network, and to organize the bags with such detail. “There’s no way we could supply what we do without purchasing from Second Harvest,” he claims. Given that 90% of the food at People’s Pantry is from Second Harvest, the food bank seems to be the answer to the variety and nutrition for which the pantry aspires.
In the beginning, Spurlock was unsure about his involvement with the pantry. Coordinating a pantry is no easy job. But after nearly 18 years, he still shows up to the food bank every Wednesday morning with a team of volunteers, cracking jokes and loading shopping carts. “Once I started, my heart really got into it because of the relationships you make with people and seeing people so grateful that we’re there for them.”
People’s Pantry remains one of Santa Cruz County’s community gems.