Food Pantry Update: The Pantry can keep its home

The Rappahannock Food Pantry can keep its home on Mt. Salem Ave. in Washington. Staff Photo/Roger Piantadosi.

The Pantry isn’t moving! We’ll remain in our cozy room at 603 Mt. Salem Avenue in Washington.

Early this summer our landlord told Pantry director Mimi Forbes that he’d need the Pantry space for an office. We were disappointed, but went into high gear looking for a suitable new location. Members of the Food Pantry Advisory Board and Mimi must have toured about 20 potential sites. The Pine Knot Inn, vacant for nearly 10 years but in the process of being refurbished, seemed the best candidate.

The Pine Knot Inn is 62 percent larger than the current Pantry space, has a kitchen for healthy cooking demonstrations and land for a community garden. However, the rent and utilities at the Pine Knot Inn would have been twice that of the Mt. Salem Avenue location. There would have been additional costs to prepare the property for Food Pantry use. And the prospect of a move wasn’t anyone’s idea of a picnic.

While in the late stages of planning for the move, our landlord surprised us again. He informed the Food Pantry Advisory Group that his home office was now equipped with a high-speed Internet connection and that he wouldn’t need our room for his office. He apologized at great length for the inconvenience and offered us a two-year lease at no increase in rent.

On Aug. 26, Bette Mahoney, Noel Laing, Hal Hunter (via Skype videochat), Roland Serrano of the Piedmont Community Partnership, Pantry director Mimi Forbes and I met to hash out the pros and cons of staying or moving to the Pine Knot Inn. The group decided to solicit the opinions of missing supporters, advisers, volunteers and donors. Within a few days a consensus was clear — most everyone thought we should stay where we are because incurring the added costs of the more spacious location just wasn’t prudent.

We can now focus our attention on making the Rappahannock Food Pantry the best Food Pantry possible. A few weeks ago we surveyed Pantry users to learn how we could better serve them. Hal Hunter networked with Food Pantry experts while vacationing in Maine. Hal suggests that we strive for as many of the attributes of the “Maine Model Food Pantry” as feasible for our small operation.

We can now work to see that every Rappahannock resident who needs our help is aware of the Pantry and encouraged to use it. We can strive for a large donor base and better fundraising so that we can increase food purchases by $5,000 per year. We can look for inexpensive sources of foods recommended by our nutrition advisers, like oatmeal and brown rice. We can try to make eggs, milk, and butter available more regularly.

The Pantry is now — and will continue to be — at 603 Mt. Salem Avenue in Washington. Take the middle exit to Washington from U.S. 211 — we’re the second driveway on the right. The Pantry phone is 540-675-1177. The Pantry is open 9 to 4 Tuesdays and Thursdays and 9 to 2 Saturdays.

About Kathy Eggers 7 Articles

Volunteer coordinator for the Food Pantry and Plant a Row. Writes updates on the Food Pantry and Plant a Row for the Rappahannock News, PAR website, and Rappnet.