The Covid-19 pandemic has strained food pantries around Volusia County as more people need help, but fewer people can donate.
The Deltona Christian Church has a food pantry that serves more than 100 people, said Anthony Prenkiewicz. “The pantry is in danger of closing because of no food and lack of funds.”
The pastor, Susanna Orensky, helps everyone and is totally selfless, Mr. Prenkiewicz said. “I'm asking for help for Susanna`s church because I was in need and she helped me. The families that count on this pantry really need it. I hope the community can and will help.”
The church's food pantry is just getting by as the demand has tripled, Pastor Orensky said. “Before Covid, we had maybe 20 families a week coming to use our pantry and now we are at 75 to 80 families a week. We’ve had to set up a drive-through pantry.”
The pantry is providing a lot more than food these days.
“We’ve expanded what we’re giving the families, because their needs are so different,” she said. “CarePlus is providing some fresh produce so that our folks are getting fresh fruit and vegetables. We’re providing laundry detergent and paper towels and toilet paper. Things that we haven’t provided before but now folks just can’t afford them and they are not covered by food stamps.”
New people are starting to show at the food pantry, Pastor Orensky said. “We used to see people who were chronically using the food bank; now we’re seeing people who would never use the food bank.”
Getting volunteers in the Covid-19 pandemic also is difficult.
The pantry is open every Wednesday on a first-come, first-served basis and people start lining up at 8 a.m. People are asked to only come every other week and provide an ID for tracking purposes.
“People are turned away every week as there is not enough food available,” Pastor Orensky said. “Perishable food and financial contributions are sorely needed.”
To donate, visit deltonachristianchurch.org for more information.
The pandemic, at least in part, spurred the creation of a unique food pantry in Lake Helen.
Nancy Weary, a Lake Helen resident, established Lake Helen’s Little Pantry, a free food pantry that also carries toiletries and hygiene products. It is on City Hall property in the center of town. It is checked daily and stocked as needed, largely by Ms. Weary, with the help of her daughter, Hannah, and friends.
“We are a small city, we have around 3,000 residents,” she said. “The need is everywhere. People have no idea what people are dealing with these days.”
Ms. Weary has the desire to help and is happy to do it.
“I love my neighbors,” she said. “It started with me but it’s truly been a collaborative effort. People have come together at the right time to care about their neighbors.”
The pantry is a stop-gap measure, Ms. Weary said. “It’s not going to feed you probably all month, but it will provide you if you need a meal that day, the next day, until you get paid again or until you can hit one of the bigger places that gives out the boxes.”
The pantry was built by teacher Stuart Hamilton as part of Bulldog Construction at DeLand High School. The artwork was created by well-known artist Kathy Ivers.
You can donate items directly to the pantry. The slogan is “Take what you need, leave what you don’t.” For more information, visit Lake Helen’s Little Pantry Facebook page.
Across the county, the mission of the social services food pantry and assistance office at Prince of Peace Catholic Church at 600 S. Nova Road in Ormond Beach is “to answer Jesus' call to serve others, by addressing basic needs of people in the community,” the church's website states. “Specifically we help with food, diapers, clothing, local bus fare, and when possible, payment of utility bills, for people who live primarily in Ormond Beach and Holly Hill or are homeless.”
Gretel Abad Ostrowski, social services director for the church, said different agencies, nonprofit organizations and food pantries have different funding sources. Money for their food pantry comes largely from sales at the parish thrift store, which had to be shut down twice per the governor’s Safer at Home orders. However, they were able to keep the food pantry operational due to volunteers, help from parishioners and large donations from Second Harvest Food Bank.”
The donations got the pantry through July to December, she said. “When our thrift store was down, our funding sources were closed.”
The Prince of Peace food pantry is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Friday. Food and financial donations are appreciated.
Other food banks/pantries in Volusia County include the Jerry Doliner Food Bank in Ormond Beach, run by the Jewish Federation of Volusia and Flagler Counties; the Neighborhood Center of West Volusia in DeLand; Halifax Urban Ministries and numerous other churches and organizations.
For assistance, visit needhelppayingbills.com/html/volusia_county_food_pantry.html to find a list of food banks and pantries in Volusia.