Life under COVID-19 has been particularly difficult for nonprofit organizations, and Milton Community Food Pantry is no exception.
The volunteer organization has seen its food distributions go from four times per month to two times per month, from serving 75 to 80 families a week to 30 to 40 families per week.
For pantry leaders Ken Sosne, Tom DiOrio and President Donna Murawski, when COVID hit in March, one of their first things was to move food distributions outdoors. DiOrio said because of social distancing regulations, the pantry could not use its normal distribution site, Goshen Hall. The solution was to ask town officials if they could use the municipal parking lot on Magnolia Street. Since early April, the pantry has been holding emergency distributions provided by Food Bank of Delaware. The pantry will host its next distribution at 10 a.m., Monday, Sept. 21. The food boxes are nonperishable, consisting of pre-packaged goods.
Murawski said COVID-19 and the new distribution schedule have changed the way the pantry does business. She said pre-COVID-19 the pantry would give out a lot of fresh product, and would get in-kind donations from grocery stores and the chicken plants. But with nowhere to store the product - the pantry has no building of its own - and with stores not carrying as much excess product, Murawski said those type of donations have mostly dried up.
Sosne said the pantry has lost clients, in part, because many of those who come to the pantry don’t have transportation to drive in. In addition, the emergency distributions are part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture program, and subject to income and state identification requirements.
The pantry’s long-term mission is to have a facility of its own. Murawski said the pantry would like to have a small thrift shop attached, so there would be a source of income; Sosne said the pantry is funded by grants and private donations.
Pantry leadership has debated whether to lease a property or buy land and build its own building. Sosne said while leasing is cheaper, buying is more advantageous for receiving funding through foundations.
The other problem has been location. DiOrio said the pantry wants to stay in Milton, but the problem is a lack of available space. DiOrio said the pantry has inquired about leasing a space behind Food Lion, but nothing is available. Murawski said the pantry also looked into leasing the former Water’s Edge church on Union Street. She said that building has a lot of what the pantry is looking for: a front space for the thrift shop, storage and a large parking lot. The problem is the building is located in a residentially zoned area, meaning the pantry would have to go to the town for a conditional-use variance. Murawski said the hope is to have a lead on a new building by the end of 2021.