Charleston Food Pantry talks food surplus, support

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Kiara Craig, Campus Reporter

The Charleston Food Pantry has been running for 13 years, first starting out in the basement of a church and eventually making its way to its own building on 990 W Street in Charleston, Illinois.

Tod Foster has been running this food pantry since its conception and has said that the pantry has been suffering due to the lack of people, the lack of space and the amount of food coming in.

“Some people don’t even know that they qualify for food pantries,” Foster said.

Foster has also said that others do not go to food pantries anymore because they have been receiving benefits, like stimulus checks, from the government.

However, places like this are still open, and they are suffering because of one simple fact: they are getting too much food in.

Foster said that he has had to not only work on expanding their building, but also has had to throw stuff out.

The Charleston Food Pantry even has a room they specifically use to push items they are trying to provide to the general public first so they can get more food, fresher food, in.

This room allows walk-ins to come in and take what they need.

“We allow people to come in every 30 days to get three days-worth of emergency food based on their household size,” Foster said.

According to Foster, families can choose from a variety of items of meat, desserts, vegetable, fruits, soup, pasta, cereal, sauce and other food items.

They also carry needed household items such as feminine products, toilet paper, books and more.

Foster even said that after holidays, they also get holiday-related items, like Valentine’s Day chocolate, Halloween candy and other items for holidays.

Foster said that they recently got 240 dozen eggs from Ruler Food, one of their main food donors, along with Walmart and CVS.

“Today we’re offering people ‘how many dozen eggs do you want’ and there is no limit,” Foster said. “If you want to take home 20 dozen, that’s up to you.”

Foster said that if you happen to be sick and cannot get the food yourself, while they will not deliver to you, they will accept someone coming over to grab the food for you.

The reason they cannot deliver is that they have a very limited number of volunteers, each with a specific job. “I’m the director here, and I’m kind of a jack of all trades,” Foster said. “I’m everything from the janitor to the person who yells at people, and hires them and fires them.”

Other volunteer positions include managing the front desk, running in and out of the freezer to get the food that is needed and other positions.

Foster also said that he always makes sure the volunteers get jobs that fit them. If someone is not a people person, for example, they will be given a job that does not include much human interaction.

People who want to help this pantry can give back in multiple ways.

People can volunteer, donate extra food that they are not using or even donate money. Something else people can do is donate to this pantry as a gift for things like Christmas.

For example, during Christmastime, some factories will have workers bring in food items and donate it to the pantry.

People can also leave some money for this pantry, or a pantry of their choice, in their will.

“We’ve had several people over the last year that have said ‘I don’t need my stimulus check, here, you guys take it’ and they’ll give us that money and then we’ll go and buy food with it,” Foster said.

Foster’s biggest example is one of their most known, yet anonymous, donors: someone they call the “Green Bean Fairy.”

This mysterious figure comes in sometime during the night twice a week, leaving two cans of green beans, and sometimes even a quarter or two.

“They’ve been doing that for about six months now,” Foster said.

People interested in either donating or seeking assistance from the food pantry can come in Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The Charleston Food Pantry is also open on Thursdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Kiara Craig can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]