The Star City Community Pantry

No one came for food on the last Thursday of February 2021, the first time the Star City Community Pantry opened for the designated one hour per week. The two volunteers did not consider feeling discouraged, they knew there were people in this small town of 460 people who would benefit. The table in the church foyer was stocked with food items. Hand sanitization and masks were available to protect against covid, and distancing was required. Besides posters all over Town, and notices in the Town monthly newsletter, a large and noticeable sign was placed on the lawn letting people know the Pantry was open.

No one came to the Pantry for food for the next three weeks. The volunteers had faith that all they had to do was persist. On the fourth week one person came and was warmly welcomed. The person nervously entered the church building. No one asked his name or ask about his financial situation; the volunteers merely invited him to the table to take the food he needed; no strings attached. The fifth week brought three people, the following week six people…word had spread. In the last two years, each week from five to fifteen people have come for food. Some people are “regulars”, others come off and on, and now and then new people are welcomed.

From the beginning the existence of the Pantry felt spiritually propelled. No solid goals, instead visions. Changes were made as they presented themselves. People who came for food expressed heartfelt gratitude.

Increasing numbers of people required increasing amounts of food. Volunteers expanded
grocery purchasing, focusing on the sales. Two more tables were added. Eggs and milk were offered, and frozen meat. People began to bring their own re-usable bags or backpacks instead of using the plastic bags provided. A small blue metal cart was purchased to move groceries from a storage room at the back of the church. Having some food stored enabled volunteers to purchase items on sale. (eg large cartons of soup, large cans of coffee on sale. Toilet paper and paper towels on sale….)

Some people came to the Pantry in a vehicle; most walked. As the winter weather became
unbearably cold, volunteers invited people to wait inside. Coffee and cookies were provided every week. Sitting covid-distanced around an arrangement of tables at first seemed a little awkward. After a few weeks conversations began to happen, and people began to know one another better. One person came to celebrate his birthday instead of choosing groceries as he usually did.

The Pantry held meaning for the whole Community of Star City. Donations of food were
collected in a basket at the Town Office, and food items were donated by individuals at City Service gas/confectionery. Individuals gave financial donations, as did the Pentecostal
Tabernacle. One woman in her 90’s now living in BC, donated $1000. Those who have more than enough were unconditionally giving to those who have less than

As the weeks continued different kinds of donations arrived. The nearby Star City Hutterite Colony donated bags of potatoes each week for many weeks; Golden Grains Bakery in Melfort (20 km west) began to donate a large amount of bread and buns on a weekly basis. In the Spring people donated garden produce, tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, squash…. there was donations of home baking and jam, local honey, generous donations of local steer hamburger and stewing meat.

The Star City Church Board (the sole committee of the church, except for the Trustees)
supported the Pantry from the beginning. The small numbers of Star City United Church
Community of Faith, with 2-5-15 people attending worship on a Sunday, were more than happy to carry out God’s meaningful work. At the Annual Meeting $7000 was incorporated into the budget for the Pantry. This enabled the Pantry to continue throughout the summer and fall.

It is costing the church up to $1000 a month ($200-300 per week) to run the Pantry. An
Innovation grant of $3500, ($500 more than asked for), came from Mission and Service.

At this point the Pantry has happened for two years this month, February 2023. Another grant has been applied for and the vision is the Pantry continues, contingent on people coming and grocery and financial donations. (We applied earlier for a Growth Grant- unfortunately the application somehow got lost).

The consensus is- the Pantry will continue as long as it is meant to continue.

To set up a similar Community Pantry, from our experience, is quite straightforward.

You need:

  • a vision and desire for those who have more than enough to give to those who have less that enough.
  • ways to tell people when the Pantry is open and that donations are welcome.
  • location, ie a church foyer or equivalent, preferably with easy access.
  • tables/shelves on which to arrange food items.
  • a freezer for perishables.
  • Volunteers -to purchase groceries on a weekly basis and to person the Pantry when it is open. We found that one hour was enough time to distribute food, and a half hour waiting time inside with coffee and cookies. Volunteers arrive at least an hour before to set up the Pantry.
  • You need a source of money from which to buy groceries.

A small church in a small town might be the best place for a Community Pantry, as larger
situations could swell a Pantry with overwhelming numbers and costs.

The strength of the Pantry comes from food given unconditionally- ie no conditions: no record of names, no requirements to disclose financial situations, no judgement (anyone , rich or poor or in-between is welcome), no record of frequency of coming for food, no limit on frequency.

Rev. Carole Beal McKenzie, retired
Box 104
Star City, SK
S0E 1P0
phone. 1-306-863-2999

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