Despite COVID, pantry volunteers are driven to keep giving back

Post-pandemic, the facility will become a mini-grocery.

 

Volunteers hanging out in front of the commercial refrigerator that YPATT was able to purchase due to a generous grant.
From left: Kristen Skrobanek, Nancy Mittleman, Dave Hutchinson, Kara Ferguson, Kay Hutchinson (Special to the sun.)

One evening during a Bible study at Trinity United Methodist Church, families participated in a community-service project by packing food donations and delivering them to needy families.

Soon after, Kristen Skrobanek, now President of the pantry, Your Place at the Table, noticed the huge need for similar acts of kindness in Mullica Hill. She asked her church if space could be created to store food. 

“We serve 65 families and about 200 people a month, so there is a huge need in this area,” said Nancy Mittleman, Vice President of Your Place at the Table.

The pantry typically serves families in Mullica Hill, Mantua, East Greenwich, South Harrison, and Elk, because those areas do not have their own pantries. Since the pandemic began, Your Place at the Table has not turned anyone away. 

Since it started in 2012 and during its earlier years, many of the pantry’s volunteers came from Trinity United. That has since been changed.

“We now have volunteers who come from different schools, honor societies to get service hours or families who love what we do,” said Mittleman. 

Before COVID, there were 30 volunteers, but to limit the number of people who touch the food and interact with clients, the pantry trimmed that number to 8. The “nourish” part of the pantry has also ended because of the pandemic. Volunteers once cooked breakfast while recipients shared their stories on-site. Deliveries and orders are now delivered to the cars of recipients.

The pantry recently received a grant that provided it with resources such as rolling wire carts and a new refrigerator that can store dairy, packaged, and produced goods. Once COVID ends, the goal of the pantry will be to have needy families treat it like a grocery store, collecting what they need in the carts.

Volunteers do the vegetable sorting for local farmers and in exchange, the pantry obtains fresh produce from Bushels of Blessing, a ministry that provides fresh produce to organizations that feed the hungry. Boy and Girl Scout troops also help the pantry run its food drives. 

Your Place at the Table also empowers: It can help with resume writing and job interview skills. 

“Besides food insecurities, people might be struggling with a lack of employment or housing,” Mittleman explained. “We don’t want to just be the place that feeds their bodies; we want to be a place that also feeds their souls.”

The pantry will host a food drive at The Yellow Garage Festival of Antiques, at the Gloucester City 4-H Fairgrounds in Mullica Hill, on Saturday, June 12, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information on how you can get involved, visit the pantry’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ypatt.org or its website at https://www.ypatt.org/.