By Conrad Dudderar
A Yukon-based food pantry is on the move.
Manna Pantry will be among occupants of new Together We Center, a new Canadian County ministry of Yukon’s Trinity Baptist Church.
“We’ll be able to operate in a more efficient manner,” Manna Pantry Director Sherri Rogers said. “We’re going to serve all of Canadian County, which will be exciting because there’s several towns that don’t have a food pantry.”
Rogers expects Manna Pantry will be able to help twice as many people – across Canadian County – after moving into a 2,000 square foot space at 620 N Cemetery Road. Construction of the Together We Center is tentatively scheduled to be done by late August.
So, Manna Pantry is eyeing a September move from its current home in downtown Yukon.
“We’ll have a warehouse area we can put food in and pull it out as needed. We’re also going to have a large walk-in cooler from a convenience store that was donated to us.”
Since 2004, the pantry has occupied a converted house at the southeast corner of Sixth and Maple. The site is owned by Yukon’s First Christian Church.
“It was not meant to hold commercial freezers, all the household freezers we have and 40,000 pounds of food,” Rogers noted. “It has served its purpose.”
For several years, pantry board members and volunteers have cited the need to find a larger home base as needs increase. Manna Pantry now serves only Yukon and Piedmont-area residents.
The upcoming move to the Together We Center comes as a blessing for Manna Pantry, which now will be able to help residents across Canadian County.
“It’s a God-thing,” Rogers shared. “God has been over this whole thing. We can’t sustain the growth we’ve had in this (current) building.”
Manna Pantry has been serving Yukon’s hungry since 1975 when it opened a food closet inside Resurrection Lutheran Church.
The pantry later moved to Yukon’s First Christian Church before going to the renovated house across the street at 123 S Sixth – where it’s been for the past 17 years.
In 2020, Manna Pantry served 3,205 families – 6,638 adults and 3,878 children.
Rogers believes those numbers could double with the new, larger location.
“Especially once the word gets out in eastern Canadian County,” she said.
NEW GROCERY STORE MODEL
Manna Pantry now opens to serve food-insecure residents six days a week – in seven, one-hour shifts.
When it joins the Together We Center, the pantry will have a grocery store model.
“We’ll probably be open less days, but longer times,” Rogers explained.
Each client will be able to come inside the pantry to “shop” for food, with help from a “shopper.”
“That volunteer will be able to help them if they need advice on healthy options, how to prepare something or with recipes,” Rogers said. “They’ll still receive as much food as they need. If we’ve got it, they’ll get it.”
Even with the impending move to the Together We Center, one thing for certain will stay the same.
“We asked to retain our name,” Rogers added. “Just because of the name recognition and the reputation that we have here in town.”
Yukon’s emergency food cupboard saw 565 new clients last year as more residents faced economic uncertainty and job loss amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Interestingly, food pantries everywhere have seen a decline over the past two months in people seeking help. That may be due to the recent federal stimulus payments and income tax refunds, Rogers suggested.
Manna Pantry served about 170 families each this February and March. Those are significant declines from 270 families in February 2020 and 350 families in March 2020.
Initially the Together We Center will feature the food pantry, 2,500 square foot free medical clinic and 1,000 square foot clothing clothes.
Organizers hope to add free or discounted vehicle repairs and counseling services, a barber shop, dental clinic, and other services.