The Athens City School District Food Pantry is helping to feed 697 people this Thanksgiving with the food distributed Wednesday, Nov. 17. A total of 206 turkeys were handed out amongst the 233 cars that came through the event.
Even those who went home without turkeys were provided with a box of shelf-stable food, ensuring that no one went home empty-handed.
The Athens Catholic Community Food Pantry, who has helped contribute to the ACSD Food Pantry from its beginning, donated the first 100 turkeys, which were quickly depleted by the time the distribution officially began. Cars lined up in advance to get supplies and by 3:45 p.m., the need for more turkeys arose. 106 more were purchased by organizers and given away.
At the inaugural giveaway, a total of 60 turkeys were distributed, a number that grew to 140 by 2020. That first year, the line was wrapped completely around the building.
On top of providing turkeys at Thanksgiving, the pantry also gives out hams at their December distribution which is taking place this year on Dec. 15 from 4 to 5:30 p.m.
For pantry organizer and Board of Education member Kim Goldsberry, being able to serve her community is exceptionally touching.
“Besides being a parent, it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done,” said Goldsberry.
The pantry started after the particularly rough winter of 2012 where students in the district missed 17 school days. School officials recognized the need for students, who normally get both their breakfast and lunch through the school, to be sent home with food. For two years, they were given odds and ends supplies but this method wasn’t doing the trick.
School nurse Heidi Shaw and Goldsberry collaborated on the pantry idea, pitching it to administration and getting approval in 2015. The pantry became a one-a-month distribution that families could count on to supplement their food supplies.
Pantry organizers prefer to stock shelves with healthier items that are lower in sugar and salt, especially since the food is often going to their own students. By having perishable items like milk and eggs, the pantry differentiates itself from others that don’t have that capability.
“We learned pretty quickly that people needed more than just shelf-stable stuff,” said Goldsberry.
Milk, eggs, bread and fresh produce became part of the food supplies given to families in need. The pantry purchases these items the day of to ensure that they were fresh. These additions quickly became popular — growing from 25 gallons purchased to 40.
Normally, the pantry is stocked with two months worth of supplies but after this months distribution, the shelves are nearly bare. The sight brought Goldsberry to tears.
“We’re totally wiped out,” she said. “I mean, we have like nine jars of jelly and four packages of ramen noodles. Not even a box of cereal left. It’s crazy. We’ve never had that before.”
To help refill shelves, food donations can be made at any of the ACSD school buildings and the central office. Healthier options, including low sugar and sodium are preferred. Other preferred items include:
- pasta/pasta sauce
- peanut butter
- low sodium canned vegetables and soups
- light syrup canned fruit
Hygiene products including toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant and etc. are also appreciated donations. Monetary donations can be made via check or cash to ACSD Food Pantry and taken or mailed to the ACSD Central Office at 21 Birge Dr., Chauncey, OH 45719.
Those wishing to volunteer at distributions can do so on the third Wednesday of every month from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at distributions.
Even with her time on the school board coming to an end, Goldsberry won’t be leaving the pantry, saying, “I did that before I was on the school board and I’ll continue it after.”
To Goldsberry, paying it forward and helping those in need is the most rewarding feeling you can get.
“I hope that we get to a place where more people are stable on their own but I think the nice thing is that we have a community that supports one another,” she said. “We’re lucky that people watch out for one another and this is just one small way of being able to do that.”