Non-Profit Spotlight: Churches of Marion Food Pantry

No one ever wants to have to choose between putting their children to bed hungry or paying the utility bill. Thanks to The Churches of Marion Food Pantry, families in our area don’t have to choose.

Pantry Coordinator Cari Redondo gives us the low down on this amazing resource in our community that is 100% run by volunteers!

Churches of Marion Food Pantry

Who does your organization serve?

The Churches of Marion Food Pantry serves people who need food in the Marion/Cedar Rapids metro area, outlying communities and rural areas. The highest percentage of our clients come from Cedar Rapids. In 2019, the pantry served over 14,000 people (over 4,000 families), which was a significant increase from 2018. Clients can come to our pantry up to three times a month. 45% of the individuals we serve are 18 and under; 14% are age 55 and over, with about 41% between those two boundaries.

People come to our pantry with many different backgrounds, stories, and situations. We hope that the help we give to them will provide some measure of relief.

How do you make a difference in the Cedar Rapids area?

By providing food to people in need, we can help our clients stretch their funds to help them stay in their house, pay for medical care, make a payment for their vehicle, repair an appliance, pay a utility bill … or at the very least, help them not be hungry. Our pantry is also co-located with the Helping Hands Clothing Closet, operated by First Presbyterian Church. People who apply for assistance at the food pantry can access the clothing closet, which also supplies help with household items and even diapers for new parents.
At the pantry, individuals/families are allowed to choose food from each of the following categories: peanut butter, packaged potatoes, treats such as pudding or popcorn, ramen noodles, juice, canned meats, pasta or rice, shelf-stable milk products, cereal, soup, macaroni & cheese, bread, canned fruit, protein beans, vegetables, bath tissue, and a “miscellaneous” item such as a hygiene product or pantry staple. Items such as meat, fruit, soup, macaroni & cheese, and vegetables are scaled to the family size. We also provide access to produce, such as apples, oranges, and potatoes as supplies allow. During the growing season, we are fortunate to provide local fresh produce donated by community gardens and generous individuals.
Another way that we share some joy is by providing birthday bags for families with children age 18 and under. Birthday bags are large gift bags that contain a cake mix, frosting, disposable cake pans, birthday candles, party plates, and napkins.

How are families able to take advantage of your services?

Our pantry is open from 1 pm – 3 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The first time our clients visit, we ask them to fill out a very brief form, which is valid until mid-year. On subsequent visits, clients make a quick visit to the registration desk, with no additional paperwork required. We have many wonderful volunteers who help distribute food during our regular hours. If it is not possible for clients to access the pantry during scheduled distributions, appointments may be requested.

How can families get involved to help your organization?

We are so grateful to our volunteers! Our organization has no paid staff and does not employ professional fundraising companies – because of this, virtually all donations go directly toward the purchase of food and hygiene products. So – volunteers are our #1 resource! We have families who help stock shelves and pick up food. Many Boy Scout families help us out each year with their large food drive! Other ways that families can help is by organizing a small food drive or fundraiser for the pantry, or put together some “birthday bags.” During the growing season, families can donate their garden produce to the pantry. You can also help the clothing closet by having a diaper drive, and of course, sharing your gently used clothing, coats, and household items.
Our pantry is sponsored by nine local churches: Ascension Lutheran, Faith Lutheran, First Presbyterian Church, Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Marion Christian Church, Marion Methodist, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. If you are a member of one of these churches, keep an eye out for ways that your church may be coming together to help the food pantry and clothing closet.  Some churches have bins for donations, some churches have special food drives or fundraisers, and other churches may arrange a service project for the pantry, or even set up a walking team through the CROP walk, which supports our pantry.
Follow the Food Pantry’s Facebook page to be notified of special events that help the pantry, such as community nights at local restaurants, or to learn about volunteer needs. Sign up for the e-newsletter at churchesofmarionfoodpantry@gmail.com to stay updated!  Helping a food pantry and clothing closet is a wonderful way to bring light to your community!
Churches of Marion Food Pantry

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