Expansion project will triple size of food pantry

Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
Megan Barker Witteman, director of the Mount Sterling Community Center, stands inside the center’s food pantry. Thanks to an anonymous donor, an expansion is planned for the food pantry this year.

(Posted Feb. 15, 2024)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

The Mount Sterling Community Center’s food pantry will triple in size this year, thanks to an anonymous donor. Organizers expect to break ground on the 30×40 square-foot expansion in late March or early April.

“The donor came to us in August last year. They knew our numbers were growing and we needed more space,” said Megan Barker Witteman, the center’s director.

In 2023, the food pantry had 10,207 individual visits, an increase of 2,200 visits over 2022. The numbers have been climbing for several years, Witteman said.

The pantry serves income eligible households in the Madison-Plains, Miami Trace, and Westfall school districts. Pre-packed food boxes are distributed in a drive-through format every Tuesday and the first Thursday of each month.

To stock the pantry shelves, the center works with Mid-Ohio Food Bank, which supplies items at no cost or at a steep discount. Additionally, Kroger in London donates fresh meat each week, and individuals and groups donate non-perishable items and money to purchase items.

Last year, the pantry took delivery of a total of 52,990 pounds of miscellaneous produce and 96,191 pounds of other food items from Mid-Ohio Food Bank, along with 9,164 pounds of chosen produce for Thanksgiving and Christmas distributions. The 2023 food intake also included 10,074 pounds of meat from Kroger. All of these numbers are up by thousands over 2022.

The pantry needs more room to store the food that goes out each week and to stockpile free items from Mid-Ohio that have long expiration dates.

“We are just busting at the seams,” Witteman said.

The expansion will connect directly to the existing food pantry space. The center plans to replace its existing walk-in cooler/freezer with a larger one and will continue to use its existing free-standing cooler/freezers.

The pantry will continue to operate during construction which is expected to take a few months to complete once ground is broken. Hours are 3-6 p.m. Tuesdays and 10 a.m.-noon the first Thursday of the month. Clients are asked to provide proof of residence at their first visit and identification at every visit.

Witteman welcomes monetary donations and donations of food and other necessities. High priority items include skillet meals, toilet paper, laundry detergent, and personal care supplies, such as shampoo and deodorant. She also welcomes volunteers to pack food boxes, sort and pack produce deliveries the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, and serve clients during pantry hours.

The Mount Sterling Community Center is a non-profit organization funded solely by donations. It is located at 164 E. Main St. and offers a wide variety of programs, recreational opportunities, and space rental. For more information, call (740) 869-2453.

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