The food pantry provides not only groceries, but acceptance and respect to those less fortunate
When Kristen Skrobanek of Mullica Hill started Your Place at the Table five years ago, she wanted to create a space for people to feel welcomed, loved and heard. The monthly food pantry not only provides residents and community members in need with supplemental groceries, but provides a new element each month for guests to attend, such as a budgeting presentation or pancake breakfast.
“We’re trying to just be human amongst a society where sometimes they get ignored,” Skrobanek said. “It’s amazing how many people say, ‘wow, I didn’t know there’s a food pantry,’ or, ‘I didn’t know there was a need.’ You always hear about Camden or Philadelphia, so I don’t want people here to be forgotten.”
The pantry originated as a result of a community service project Skrobanek and five additional families put together at the end of a Bible study. Each family put together a box of food for low-income housing and delivered them to the families who lived there. However, Skrobanek said, something didn’t feel right knowing their one box would soon be empty again. It was then she took the initiative to start a local food pantry out of her church.
According to Skrobanek, the pantry serves residents within Harrison Township, East Greenwich, South Harrison Township, Mantua Township and Elk Township, with connections to the school districts as well as local low-income housing communities. Proof of residency is all that is required at this time to participate in the pantry’s offerings, open on the third Friday of each month between 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.
When a guest shows up to the pantry, they will sign in and and be handed a form, differentiated by family size, to fill out their choice of foods. The form provides options for breakfast, lunch and what Skrobanek considers the “staples,” such as applesauce, soups, canned tuna or chicken and vegetables. While they wait for their boxes of goods to be assembled, the visitors are invited to attend a variety of programs, educational or community-based.
“It’s more than just about the food, anybody can give out food, but I want to provide an environment that is supportive of them, a loving environment they can come to and not feel belittled,” Skrobanek said. “I want them to feel like that they can talk about how they are doing, give them a hug.”
Skrobanek said the pantry serves approximately 125 people per month, including children. Since the pantry does not collect food items through food banks or the government because it would require additional qualifications and the food must be purchased, all supplies and goods are donated from the community. Skrobanek said the reason YPATT has been able to keep the shelves stocked is because of food drives held by the schools and local organizations. As well, many of the food is donated by local businesses and farms.
Those in need of food who live within the local area are invited to call the hotline at (609) 202–0015, or visit www.ypatt.org. Those interested in making a donation, or volunteering their time to the pantry should email Skrobanek at email@example.com, or visit the pantry on Facebook.
If you get a bag on your mailbox to donate food, even if it’s just a box of cereal, that makes a difference,” Skrobanek said. “Think twice if people are asking; take the minute to put something extra in your cart. It could be any of us.”