Perry Area Food Pantry helps the community through COVID-19 pandemic

Andrew Brown -
Perry Area Food Pantry staff help deliver items to cars. PHOTO BY ANDREW BROWN/THE PERRY CHIEF

The COVID-19 pandemic has sure put a big twist in our daily lives as businesses and organizations have closed their doors to wait things out. That, in turn, has made things difficult, especially for those in need. For some families, the simple act of receiving a good meal can be hard enough as it is, let alone the toll put on by the pandemic.

That’s where many organizations including the Perry Area Food Pantry have stepped up. While COVID-19 concerns have closed many doors, it hasn’t shut things down for Site Manager Lou Hoger and staff. The Perry Area Food Pantry continues to march on, providing the same service but in a slightly different form.

“We’ve tried our best to get things together that people might like,” said Hoger. “During this response and recovery time, we have the shoppers stay in the cars and we go and get the food for them. We have a form checklist that the shoppers can pick out their food from and we will go into the building to get the supplies for them.”

Hoger went on to say that the forms and checklist are also in Spanish. That’s just one of the various means by which the Perry Area Food Pantry is assisting the community during these hard times.

“We want everyone in the community to be able to get what they need and stay safe,” said Hoger. “For older adults and those afraid to venture out of expanded service during this time, we have Surrogate Shoppers. Just call me at 515-570-2975 and I will take your order and send you a Surrogate Shopper form that should reach you the next day.”

The initial ordering process hasn’t been the only change to the structure of the food pantry. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced various different changes and from those changes have come situations that have surprised Hoger and his staff.

“I’ve been surprised when I do the checklist that we give out far fewer food items than normal when people walk through,” said Hoger. “People just aren’t taking as much as they would normally walking through our doors. Even with that said, we have had an increase in the number of overall shoppers so there is a growing need for supplies.”

In terms of the biggest need overall, instead of food items as one might think, it’s a non-food item that has held the most need and it’s been something that’s been a need across the entire community.

“Perhaps the biggest thing that has risen in need as of late has been toilet tissue,” said Hoger. “That is the only hygiene item that we buy here and it goes really fast. We are in constant need.”

When it comes to food items, while all food is needed, there are a few things in particular that are higher priority items.

“The biggest issue overall is not what is in high demand but what do we have a hard time getting,” began Hoger. “Our biggest cost item is our ground beef but we’re also in big need of rice. For the first time I’ve been associated with the (Perry Area) Food Pantry, the Food Bank of Iowa has not had rice.”

While some items have been low, there have been other items that have seen a rise. Hoger mentioned that canned fruit has seen a slight incline but the normal process of giving out the fruit has changed itself.

“Normally we would allow them to pick out which can of fruit they want but during these times, we go with what we have more stock of,” Hoger said

As always with the Perry Area Food Pantry, donations of any type are greatly accepted but especially during these times, the need for monetary donations is greater for the needs of the pantry.

“We will always accept donations of any type but monetary donations seem to have a slightly bigger impact,” Hoger added. “I say that $100 donated can buy over 625 pounds for the food bank. We don’t want to hamper any type of donations that people want to bring but with money, I am able to go and buy exactly what we need here at the food pantry.”

Hoger went on to mention his appreciation for items such as canned green beans and so forth that now lay in abundance within the food bank. Hoger also brought up the generous money received from various grants including from the Bock Family Foundation and Tyson that have not only helped to buy food for the pantry directly, through other potential future means as well.

“The Tyson grant would help us give people cash vouchers to go to any local shop of their choice,” said Hoger. “I’d ask them if they’d like to have a certificate to Hy-Vee, Fareway, or Oasis Grocery store and so forth.”

The Perry Area Food Pantry continues to operate Tuesdays from 10 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 1 to 3 p.m.