For those living on the west side of Bloomington, getting food isn’t a problem, but getting healthy food is.
More families in need will be able to have healthy food choices when the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVDP) opens its newly expanded food and clothing pantry.
The pantry is located at the former Corpus Christi Junior High building and will open to the public on April 1.
Holy Trinity Catholic Church has provided a food pantry for the community for almost 50 years, but it joined with SSVDP in the last decade. Together, the organizations have helped students, senior citizens and others in need.
“It was somewhat of a modest operation until a decade ago,” President of SSVDP Holy Trinity Conference Jim Tuite said. “Then we ended up growing quite a bit.”
The pantry will not only provide food, but clothing items as well. They set up the pantry like a clothing store and give patrons the chance to shop for what they need.
“You’ll think you’re walking through Bergner’s,” Tuite said. “So that the merchandise is displayed out on clothing racks. So that is going to be integrated for the first time with the food pantry.”
In previous years that clothing had to be located in a separate building from the food pantry. With the expansion, they can have both resources in the same place. The hours for both facilities will also be expanded.
They primarily serve the west Bloomington area, which is a food desert, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
According to a press release from the SSVDP, the pantry serves over a thousand families a month. The expansion comes as the amount of people using the pantry’s services increases.
“We’ve grown from about 100, 150 a day,” he said. “We’re up to close to 300 individuals coming through for families of six or eight. We’re typically serving over twelve hundred people a week.”
In addition to providing food and clothing to the community, the pantry also plants a garden full of fresh produce. They grow several thousand pounds of vegetables and are hoping to expand with fruit trees. They also hope to build a garden area for patrons to wait in, instead of standing in the cold or heat.
Moving facilities and keeping products stocked requires hours of volunteer work, and they are always looking for more people. SSVDP reaches out to the university often looking for volunteers.
“One of the major groups that helps us every year is the postal workers,” Tuite said. “They do a canned food drive and we’re one of the primary beneficiaries of that.”