Troy food pantry growing

The First Place Food Pantry has grown considerably since it opened its door literally in a closet at a downtown Troy church in 2003.

Over time the pantry moved to a room at the First Place Christian Center, across the street from its initial home at the First United Methodist Church on Franklin Street.

By 2014, the pantry had again outgrown its space and had also become an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

The same year it moved to its current home at 721 Lincoln Ave., a few blocks away.

“It works out well here. The added space was what we needed more than anything else,” said Donna Wilkerson, the pantry’s part-time executive director. “We loved being at the church center but the aisle ways were not wide enough. Now, wheelchairs have no problem going up and down the aisles.”

First Place Food Pantry serves those living in the 45373 (Troy) and 45312 (Casstown) zip codes. About 12 percent of the population in those areas are considered food insecure, Wilkinson said.

“It doesn’t mean they are starving but it means one thing – like a flat tire, or a prescription – can take away their food money,” she said.

The pantry sees a growing number of grandparents and great-grandparents rearing their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, situations that at times place excess strain on their budgets.

The food pantry continually is looking for funding and working to educate the community on its status as a nonprofit, no longer part of a church budget, said Sharon Buse, a member of the First Place Food Pantry board.

She and other board members work on committees with other volunteers to continue to find for ways for the pantry to help, and to help the pantry.

“We belong to the community; are here as a resource but also need the community’s support,” Buse said. “Having a separate space like this is great.”

The organization works with Shared Harvest food bank in Fairfield as well as gleans from Kroger, Walmart and Panera, among others.

The pantry has around 75 volunteers who help with tasks such as picking up 25 cases of oranges one morning after a call offering the fruit was received. Other volunteers help with weighing and sorting donated food and assisting clients as they “shop” at the pantry.

A central need at this time is fundraising for a van to transport food. The current van is a 2003 donated several years ago, has more than 200,000 miles and is showing increased maintenance costs.

A more modern van is being sought that would be easier for volunteers, many who are older, to access. Some form of refrigeration would allow the pantry to obtain food from another large business, Buse said.

First Place Food Pantry served 15,835 individuals last year or around 4,400 households.

Focus is on trying to help people get things that are healthy, Buse said.

Some shoppers are living in hotels or other rented spaces. Some don’t have stoves or other equipment so donations of items such as crock pots and can openers is encouraged. Suitcases also can be used for those who walk to the pantry and need a way to take food home.

The pantry includes a section of personal care items such as soap, deodorant, toothpaste and diapers. For more information on how the pantry operates and how to donate, visit the website at

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First Place Food Pantry is holding a Prom with a Purpose Fundraiser to support replacement of the pantry’s van.

The cost is $10 per entry and is open to all Miami County high school students including Lehman Catholic. The grand prize: use of a luxury limo van for the winner and nine friends on prom night 5 p.m. to midnight including driver and snacks. The runner up prize: $250 gift card for prom night dinner for winner and some friends. Other prizes will include hair styling, corsage and boutonniere sets and tux rental. For more information, see the First Place Food Pantry on Facebook.

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