Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way to Feed Neighbors

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way to Feed Neighbors

August 29, 2023 in Agency Spotlight

Volunteers at the Oregon County Food Pantry in Alton have been diligently supporting their community for 18 years. For much of that time, they distributed food from a borrowed church building, but as their service grew, so did their needs. Now, the pantry’s generosity has come full circle as they serve their neighbors from a new location – which they own!

Oregon County has a poverty rate of 21.2 percent. That’s nearly twice as high as the Missouri average. Residents here face challenges like fewer local jobs, long commutes to work and a shortage of doctors nearby. That’s why community members started the Alton pantry in 2005, but the only space available at the time was a building offered by a local church. The location allowed them to provide food to their neighbors experiencing hunger for years, but eventually, their needs outgrew their distribution abilities.

In the borrowed building, food had to be stored in the basement. This meant volunteers had to move all of the food upstairs every month for a distribution and carry leftovers back downstairs when it was over. As volunteers aged, many began to struggle with the stairs. On top of that, the location didn’t have an adequate lot for parking or receiving deliveries.

But the final push to find a new location came when the pantry received a grant for a much-needed walk-in freezer and quickly realized they didn’t have room for it. “At that point, I took the bull by the horns and decided to find a new place that could better serve our needs,” shares Daisy Simmons, project director at Oregon County Food Pantry in Alton.

In October 2022, the Alton pantry signed the lease for a new building with an option to buy, and the community rallied to support the cause. By March 2023, the pantry had received enough donations from local churches and groups to completely purchase the new location! Two coolers were donated with no strings attached, and a moving company helped transfer everything to the new building for free.

The pantry also recently installed a new asphalt driveway thanks to Ozarks Food Harvest’s Urgent Need Grant. “Now the Ozarks Food Harvest truck can pull in and unload,” Daisy explains. “Partnering with Ozarks Food Harvest impacts us a lot. They provide food at a lesser cost or free and a truck to come deliver it. We couldn’t do it without them. We’d never have enough donations to cover the food cost any other way.”

With the rising cost of childcare, housing and food in recent years, many people who visit the pantry are seeking help as a last resort when budgets no longer accommodate all of their groceries. The Alton pantry is seeing more neighbors seek food assistance for the first time, but despite their stressful situations, Daisy says the community is patient and grateful for the pantry’s services. “These are just common people,” she shares. “Everybody knows everybody else in this area. One woman told me she hadn’t seen this much food in her house in a long time, and several come and tell me thank you.”

Daisy continues, “In our area, I think there will continue to be a need. We’ll go along just as we are for as long as we partner with Ozarks Food Harvest. And if you ever get down this way, look us up. I’d be more than happy to show you where we live and work.”

Ozarks Food Harvest is grateful for partners like the Oregon County Food Pantry in Alton, who know and care about the neighbors they serve. We’re proud to support them as they help the hard-working people of Oregon County.