Food pantry recovers from fire

Published 9:39 pm Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Volunteers were hard at work Wednesday to remodel and restock the East End Baptist Church food pantry on East Washington Street.

Approximately 20 Food Lion associates, as well as representatives from the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, assisted East End Baptist Church members in restocking the shelves and landscaping the new pantry location Wednesday morning.

The building the church had previously used for its food pantry at the nearby corner of Mulberry and Adam streets was damaged in a fire in March.

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Volunteers cleaned racks inside the church’s new pantry location on 617 E. Washington St., then organized boxes upon boxes of food on shelves. Food was donated by both Food Lion and the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore.

The volunteers mowed the grass, cut hedges, laid down fresh mulch and put a new sign of the front of the building to identify it as a distribution center for the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore.

This is the fifth year of Food Lion Feeds’ “The Great Pantry Makeover,” according to a press release, which oversees significant renovations in the fight against food insecurity.

“Our people live in the neighborhood,” said Harold Horton, retail director of operations for the Suffolk region of Food Lion. “The folks that need help out here — they’re our families, they’re our friends, they’re our neighbors, and we want to make sure that we can do everything we can to help those folks.”

East End Baptist Church may have moved from 523 E. Washington St. to 1056 Portsmouth Blvd. in 2017, but its food pantry continued to operate in the downtown core to better serve Suffolk citizens that would have difficulty reaching the church.

“We wanted to stay in the community,” Food Pantry Director Yvonne Green said.

The church’s food pantry serves about 175 families on the second and fourth Thursdays monthly with supplies from the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore. The church also holds a mini-mart for an hour every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon with Food Lion supplies, which serves between 25 to 35 families within the hour, depending on how much is collected from Food Lion, Green said.

“If somebody comes into the church during church service in need of food, we already have made emergency bags that we can give them,” Green said.

These emergency bags can usually last a family for two or three days, according to Green.

“The need is very great here in Suffolk,” said Taylor Miller, community outreach manager for the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, “so to have someone like Ms. Green and her team at East End Baptist Church be able to come and provide these services on a daily basis is really invaluable.”

The Foodbank has also offered East End Baptist Church another program to provide food and assistance for people with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes. This will furnish the church’s food pantry with more freezer and shelf space and also provide fresh produce for these people on a weekly basis.

“We hope that … this is the first step of a larger partnership in the future, not only locally but regionally, as we extend to impact the lives of people who are underserved,” said Dr. Wayne Faison, pastor of East End Baptist Church.

Remodeling work will continue at the East End Baptist Church food pantry, according to Green, and services are expected to resume at 617 E. Washington St. on Oct. 10.