Parish Food Pantry Feeds The Hungry With Joy
We’ve all heard the story of the Good Samaritan — and as Christians, we are all called to be ‘Good Samaritans’ to our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Annunciation Community Food Pantry is one way that we can serve those in need, right here in our local community.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone has found themselves affected in different ways. Many are having difficulty feeding themselves and their families, and our Food Pantry volunteers have been working hard to be a force for good and help as many people as they can.
“As Catholics, we’re charged to feed the hungry,” says Ann Lum, Food Pantry coordinator. “When things shut down, we made a really quick turnaround — we had a phone conference about safety and opened the next week with drive-by service. We have a dedicated group and have spread out all the jobs so we can keep our volunteer volume under 10 and meet all requirements.”
For drive-up service, the Food Pantry welcomes anyone who needs food on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. In order to keep contact as minimal as possible, no sign-in is required, and volunteers deliver a box of food right into the vehicle’s trunk or seat. All volunteers wear masks, and the driver and passengers are also asked to wear masks.
“We’ve been making 160-165 boxes each week,” Ann says. “For three weeks in August, we did an experimental sign-in procedure, but stopped because it was too much contact. But during that time, we discovered that out of the 301 different names in those three weeks, 185 were people that we had never seen before. It’s a different population — people are now coming to the Food Pantry who had never been here before, who really haven’t needed this before. People are very thankful — it’s a difficult time. All of us at the Food Pantry are really committed to keeping this going, and keeping it open and available for those who may not have other resources.”
Food Pantry volunteers shop during the week and make food boxes every Saturday. The boxes also contain items donated both by parishioners and other organizations.
“We had four months of wonderful vegetables donated by Keck Observatories and our county council member, Tim Richards,” Ann says. “Each week, they brought about $1,000 worth of farmers’ produce directly to us and other food pantries. This allowed us to have a bag of fresh vegetables every month.
“The program has ended now, but we are always happy for donations of fresh produce for the boxes,” she adds. “We have had people donate ulu, avocados and kale, for example. We also once had someone donate little packages of dental kits, which was really nice to give people in the boxes.”
Donations are essential to keep the Food Pantry up and running, and ready to serve those in need. The Food Pantry welcomes any donation, big or small. Monetary donations are extremely helpful, as well as donations of food items such as canned goods, or produce from backyard gardens.
“We are so appreciative of anything people can do, even if it seems like a little,” Ann says. “If everyone can donate just a little bit, it adds up to a lot.”
Working in social services during a pandemic means constantly adjusting, searching for solutions, and brainstorming ways to continue to raise funds and provide services in a safe way. But for volunteers, working in the Food Pantry is a way to bring joy to the community during a difficult time.
“Everything is closed down, and we’re not all able to go to Mass, but we’re out there every Tuesday,” Ann says. “We are the face of the Church in the community right now. The volunteers are cheerful, we greet everybody, and it’s a happy place. It’s a stressful time and you don’t know what people are going through, so we try to make the Food Pantry a positive place for them.”
After 15 years of service, Ann will soon be retiring, and Maile Lincoln will be stepping in as coordinator. Maile and Ann are currently working together to ensure a smooth transition. Mahalo, Maile and Ann, for your stewardship and service!