Fully determined to make a difference in her community, Amanda Woodring opened a food pantry in Mercersburg nearly two years ago.
Stocked with pre-packaged items, canned goods, boxes of non-perishables and fresh produce, My Neighbor’s Bounty is a quaint pantry doing a whole lot of good in the Franklin County town and its surrounding area.
“When we first opened, we were serving around 20-24 families. Currently, we are serving about 70 families a week, and who knows, next month it could be 85 families a week,” said Woodring, president and chair of the ministry.
The pantry’s mission is “One community, one heart.”
“The name ‘My Neighbor’s Bounty’ says what it means. It’s taking yourself as someone’s neighbor and giving of your bounty to someone in need,” Woodring said.
The pantry offers just about everything a person could need to feed themselves or their family: cereal, canned vegetables, cooking oils, pasta, condiments and perishable items like dairy products, eggs and meat.
“It meant a lot to me (to open this pantry) because this is my hometown, and this community as a whole in Mercersburg didn’t really have a direct place where people could go and get food,” Woodring said.
Open to the community every Friday from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., My Neighbor’s Bounty welcomes anyone in need. There are no lengthy forms to fill out or paperwork to present. The only requirement is for clients to sign their name and indicate the number of people in their household, so that suppliers such as the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank can estimate how much to provide each week.
Individuals can select up to 20-25 items per person in their family (a limit that is extended for those with a certain amount of people in their household). Once they’ve finished selecting their items, the groceries are bagged and delivered to vehicles, if needed.
It’s a quick and simple process, and Woodring said she wants it that way.
“If you are in need of food and you would like to come to our pantry, just come in!” she expressed. The pantry updates the community about its hours, food donation suggestions and fundraisers via its Facebook page.
“We currently have a client base of anybody who wants to come. There are no income requirements, you don’t need a pay stub or tax returns. I just wanted it where there was no judgment; you could come and get the food that you needed.”
What makes My Neighbor’s Bounty different from some other food pantries is that clients are permitted to select their own preferred items, and that’s a method that eliminates food waste, Woodring said.
“I did some research, and with a lot of food pantries that give out boxes of pre-packaged food, 70 percent of the food goes to waste,” she explained. “We allow you to come in and choose the food you’d like to eat, and food you’ll use to prepare meals for your family.”
“It’s a simple process, and that’s the way we want it to be. If you’re hungry and you need food, I want it to be simple for you,” Woodring said.
A Matthew 25 Grant Recipient
My Neighbor’s Bounty is one of 32 ministries within the Diocese to benefit from last year’s Matthew 25 Collection. The annual collection is an undertaking of the Diocese of Harrisburg to help parish-sponsored programs that provide food, clothing and shelter to people in need.
This year’s collection is the weekend of November 20. Monies contributed by parishioners are directed into grants for area ministries. Some, like My Neighbor’s Bounty, help alleviate the burden of food insecurity. Others help provide shelter for those who are homeless, or help struggling families pay rent. Some work to provide the less-fortunate with warm clothing.
All funds contributed to the Matthew 25 Collection benefit local needs. Seventy-five percent of the monies are distributed to programs within the Diocese. Twenty-five percent of the monies are returned to parishes for their use in assisting others.
The grant My Neighbor’s Bounty received from last year’s collection was used to purchase a commercial refrigerator and freezer to store perishable items.
“The Matthew 25 grant has been wonderful,” Woodring said. “Stores around the area donate a lot of perishable items to us weekly – hundreds of pounds. We just didn’t have enough refrigeration space, and when we applied for the grant, that’s what we put in for.”
Before purchasing the commercial refrigerator and freezer, volunteers made due with smaller refrigerators throughout the commercial building the ministry operates out of, and a flat freezer. “Now people can see what they are choosing,” Woodring said of the new appliances.
She expressed gratitude for the Matthew 25 grant, and for parishioners who contribute to the annual collection.
“There are a lot of people out there who are struggling. They’re appreciative of what we’re doing, and really glad that we’re here,” she said.
“No matter your situation, I always feel that even if you can help one person, that’s the ultimate goal.”
Learn more about the Matthew 25 Collection and how you can contribute at www.hbgdiocese.org/matthew25.
(Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness