UTICA — The community of Utica and the surrounding area has come together during this economic crisis to help one another with food and other daily needs. The Utica food pantry is grateful to receive all of the help and donations from the community, said Perma Jean Rice, representative for the pantry.
Although Rice has seen an increase in the number of families coming to the pantry, she has also seen many members of the community donate food and money.
“With the loss of jobs the [use of] pantries is increasing and that is what the food is there for,” she said. “We have been having more now, but people have been so good [in giving], our pantry is the fullest it has ever been.”
The pantry also offers milk vouchers that can be used at the local grocery store.
“What we don’t get in donation, we get from a warehouse in Newark,” said Rice. The warehouse is a part of the Licking County Food Pantry.
“We are a subsidiary of the Licking County Food Pantry [network], so we get food from them, plus the Kroger in Newark. [Also, the local] schools, the Boy Scouts, churches and community organizations have been really good to the local Utica food pantry,” said Jack Raines, a volunteer at the pantry.
“There is more than what there used to be [coming in],” said Raines. “We will get about 30 families in one afternoon.”
Rice said the regular volunteers — about 16 — really love working at the pantry, and they often recruit other people from the community to occasionally help at the pantry, through donations and time.
“[The volunteers] love it,” said Rice. “And there are some that hate to miss [a week to help].”
“It’s really a good feeling to be able to help people, and I think that can be spoken for everyone who works there,” said Raines.
The Utica High School boys basketball team helped on one occasion, carrying and stocking food for the pantry.
“We have a couple of boys that come from the FFA every week to help and they get credit at school for that,” said Rice. “For a small town, we are really doing good [helping one another]. People are so good.”
The pantry is open on Thursday afternoon from 1 to 3 p.m. Proof of residency is needed, as well as identification for each member of the family.
“We package according to the number in the family, so it could be a package of one or two in a family, or three or four, and another five or six,” said Raines.
Families can come once a month to receive food packages and other necessary items such as toilet paper, personal items, hygiene items, baking supplies and laundry detergent.
“We have a menu that we follow that has cereal, juice, canned meat and frozen meat, canned pasta, macaroni and cheese,” said Rice. “And then I do ask them whether they want a pancake or syrup, or sugar, flour or oil— they can have one of the three.
“When we get fresh fruit and things like that— we don’t know when we get them and we don’t get it every week— they get to have that also,” she added.