Staff members, Volunteers keep Dublin Food Pantry Well-Stocked to Help Others
A. Kevin Corvo The Columbus Dispatch Dublin ThisWeek Published Nov. 17, 2021
The Dublin Food Pantry located at 81 W. Bridge St. in Dublin, is open for a few hours three days of the week, but the preparations to provide it, led by Denise Youngsteadt-Parrish, executive director, Jim Wilson, director of operations. and a cadre of volunteers is a weeklong effort.
“It’s just so rewarding to be here and help,” said Maureen Duecker, a Dublin resident who on Nov. 15 was among the volunteers sorting 3,000 pounds of food that had been picked up by volunteers from MidOhio Food Collective. The food is unloaded from a truck, carried into the pantry and sorted by a dozen volunteers for three to four hours, Wilson said.
The pantry also is stocked with food donated by such stores as all 3 Dublin area Kroger stores, Giant Eagle, Meijer, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and more. “Our volunteers pick up the food in their own cars,” Wilson said.“
These deliveries are typically bread and produce and other perishables that are being removed from the grocer’s shelves for the day’s latest deliveries at those stores, he said.
The food pantry also buys food from a variety of places, including the occasional purchase of fresh fish from a market or other specialty items, Wilson said.
Like virtually every food pantry in America, the number of families seeking assistance has grown since the beginning of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Youngsteadt-Parrish said.
The pantry was serving about 250 families a month when Youngsteadt-Parrish became its executive director in March of 2019, one year before the pandemic impact began.
Today, nearly two years into the pandemic, it is serving at least 400 and sometimes as many as 500 families a month, especially near a holiday such as Thanksgiving, Youngsteadt-Parrish said.
“But our community rises to the occasion,” she said, as holiday food drives by local businesses, support from the city of Dublin and help from other quarters typically, but not always, allow the pantry to meet increased calls for service.
The Dublin Food Pantry is the designated charitable organization of the Dublin Irish Festival, said Christine Nardecchia, director of outreach and engagement for Dublin. City volunteers harvest produce grown at the Giving Garden at the historic Coffman Homestead in Coffman Park that also is provided to the pantry, Nardecchia said.
Before COVID-19, the Dublin Food Pantry was a “choice” store, one in which patrons could push a shopping cart and make selections like any other grocery store, but the pandemic required a change still in place in which patrons are supplied a prepacked box of food staples picked up at a drive-thru outside the church on days of operation.
“It’s unfortunate we had to stop (in-person shopping) because of COVID,” Youngsteadt-Parrish said, but pantry leaders are considering resuming the practice.
“We have given it lots of thought (and) hope it is something we can start up again next year,” Wilson said.
Supplying food isn’t the only way the pantry helps those in need.
Youngsteadt-Parrish arrived at Dublin Community Church one morning to find a vehicle with a flat tire and a family who had slept in it in the parking lot.
“We found them a tire and sent them on their way,” Youngsteadt-Parrish said.
She said she does not know exactly how many, but it is not uncommon for those who are utilizing the pantry to also be homeless, including those in Dublin.
“The faces of the people who need our help aren’t the faces you think,” Youngsteadt-Parrish said. “Being homeless looks different in Dublin. It’s not tents along the river. It’s couch surfing,” which refers to the practice of staying with different family members or friends, often to keep children in the same school district.
Dublin City Schools makes referrals to the food pantry when it learns a family could utilize its services in addition to conducting food drives to benefit it.
But for all the support the Dublin Food Pantry receives from the community, it still isn’t always enough, Youngsteadt-Parrish said.
“We can’t do it all but we always do the best we can,” she said.
The Dublin Food Pantry was established in 1976 and serves families in Dublin and the Dublin City Schools, but it will provide one-time assistance to anyone in need.
“We won’t turn anyone away without something,” said Youngsteadt-Parrish, adding that those living outside the Dublin school district are provided resources to find assistance in the area they live.
No application is required to receive assistance, but photo identification and proof of an address is required on a first visit. If the person or family is homeless, the address of the pantry is used, Youngsteadt-Parrish said.
For information about donating to the pantry, go to dublinfoodpantry.org
The Dublin Food Pantry is open from 5:30 to 7:15 p.m. Mondays, 10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Tuesdays and 4 to 6:15 p.m. Thursdays.