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Jericho Food Pantry starts small, anticipates growth

Jericho Partnership’s new voucher-based food pantry began a phased opening in early September, distributing non-perishable food items to clients of Jericho’s 11 ministry partners. In October, the pantry will expand its outreach to include Jericho’s 22 church partners.

"Think about it," said Jim Wiley, Jericho's ministry coordinator. "Each of our 33 church and ministry partners will be given ten vouchers a month. That means in any given month 330 vouchers will be out there. That's a lot for a start-up pantry. Most food pantries in the city  serve between 75 and 100 meals a week, and they've been inexistence for a long time."

Jericho’s case-management outreach team, led by part-time case-management staffer Grace Mann, “will link people up with ministry partners to get to the root of why they need food and see if we can help them along,” he said.

The food pantry ministry is motivated by the Bible parable of the Good Samaritan, where a compassionate man encounters a beaten and bruised traveler and gives him aid (Luke 10:25-37).

Donations and volunteers

In January, Jericho will apply for membership in the nonprofit Connecticut Food Bank “for sustainability,” Jim said. “Nobody can survive without being part of it.” Each of the city’s four other food pantries are members of the Food Bank. “The primary source of food for all the pantries in Connecticut comes from the Food Bank,” which sells its food items at steep discounts, he said. “For every dollar we’ll get $4 or $5 worth of food in return.”

Jericho is asking supporters to donate food items with expiration dates of 2014, consider hosting food drives in their communities or donating funds to help purchase supplementary food items, and consider volunteering to pack food bags or to help distribute them.

Jericho’s storage area is in the basement of its 13 Rose St. facility, but food packages will be distributed from its Spring Street Ministry location at 44 Spring St. At present, the pantry is open every Tuesday from 2 to 8 p.m. “We are looking for volunteers to come to Rose Street during the week and prepare bags of staples from a list we’ll prepare,” and volunteers to help distribute the packages of food, Jim said.

The staple bag will contain about a dozen items such as pasta and sauce; canned beans, vegetables, tomatoes and soup; cans of tuna and packages of rice.

Supplementary pantry

“Like the other food pantries in Danbury, our pantry shouldn’t be considered a person’s primary source of food,” he said. “We’re a supplementary food pantry only, giving away on average four days worth of food for a family.”

“Further down the road, we plan to get local supermarkets and farmers’ markets and farmers involved to provide fresh fruit and vegetables and fresh bread” to supplement the non-perishable food pantry items, Jim said.

For more information about the food pantry; how to volunteer, donate food items or funds; or how to host a food drive at your church or in your community, contact volunteer@jerichopartnership.org.

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