Along with its new home, the pantry will expand to include non-food items
For a decade the Rappahannock Food Pantry has provided for the people of the county. Now, simply put, it’s time to provide for the pantry.
The Rappahannock Food Pantry Capital Campaign is now officially underway, its mission: “Creating a Home for the Food Pantry Together.”
Co-chaired by Rappahannock residents John Anderson and John Fox Sullivan, the campaign’s goal via even the smallest of donations is to build a brand new pantry facility in a more centralized county location — in this case in the vicinity of Union Bank & Trust and Rappahannock public schools.
The pantry has outgrown its current rented space west of Sperryville on Route 211, where its lease will expire on Sept. 1, 2020. Which left the pantry with three options: buy the current building and renovate; rent and modify a different structure; or buy an empty lot and build to meet its needs.
“In the 10 years the Food Pantry has been in operation, we have resided in two rental buildings — both of which required modifications and money to meet our requirements,” states the all-volunteer pantry, a 501(c)3 organization. “Rather than continue to invest in renovating rentals, we believe that owning and building to our needs, for almost the same price, is the more cost-effective approach in the long-term.”
After evaluating the options, the pantry has decided to purchase a lot, describing the cost difference of the land and a subsequent new facility as “negligible, and owning and building to our needs is more cost-effective.”
“A new building will be more efficient and allow us to expand our services,” the pantry explains. “Having everything under one roof will ease the burden of carrying heavy boxes of food from storage buildings to stock shelves; a portico will make it more convenient to load shopper’s cars during inclement weather; it will give us room to expand our Backpack program when the schools are closed and to pack food for home deliveries.”
No fewer than 135 county children currently rely on the Pantry’s Backpack Program for healthy meals on weekends, while overall 16 percent of the county’s children — 10 percent of all county residents — “live in poverty, the highest poverty rate in the Northern Piedmont.”
“Thirty-seven percent of our children are food-insecure, yet ineligible for federal assistance,” the pantry points out. Then there is the Rappahannock community as a whole that benefits from the pantry. Last year, 253 households — totaling 734 individuals — relied on the facility to put food on the table. Over half were seniors and children.
With the exception of two part-time employees, who manage day-to-day operations, the food pantry relies entirely on volunteers. Some 80 Rappahannock residents currently volunteer at the Sperryville location on a regular basis, while over the last decade 1 in 7 county residents — more than 1,000 people — have rolled up their sleeves to pitch in. Members of the Food Pantry Board of Directors similarly are unpaid volunteers.
There are two separate funding needs presently, including regular donations to the pantry — including funds that will be raised through this coming Saturday’s Annual Pantry Dinner — which cover the cost of purchasing food, rent and utilities.
The Capital Campaign is a new separate fundraising initiative to build the pantry its “forever home,” with donations to be maintained in a separate account. Any donations in excess of what it costs to purchase the land and construct and outfit the building will go towards the pantry’s future maintenance.
Sullivan and Anderson stress that every dollar contributed in the new campaign counts, whether raised through bake sales, car washes, individual donors, or perhaps donated stocks, securities or IRA/RMD funds.
“If you think of the food pantry and how it serves the needs of the county, and you think about all the volunteers and the generosity of the people in terms of funding, it’s the absolute best example that I know in the county of One Rappahannock coming together as a community,” Anderson said this week.
Added Sullivan: “In a community where people are looking to work together the food pantry serves folks who are hungry, and that’s not defined by race, not defined by sex, not defined by come-heres verses been-heres, and that’s one of the reasons why people have come together to support it. And that’s why people are going to support the campaign. What you have is inclusivity and not exclusivity.
“It’s a great chance for people to come together for the common good,” he said.
“And,” observed Anderson, “we’ve adopted this theme of ‘One Rappahannock’ to reflect the sense of our community, our values, our caring for one another, our volunteerism and generosity of our neighbors.”
Anyone living in Rappahannock County and experiencing financial difficulties — regardless of whether they meet federal income limitations — can receive purchased and donated food twice a month (three times a month for families with children).
Right now, the majority of the pantry’s food is either purchased in bulk or donated by supermarkets, big box stores, local farms, groups or individuals. Only a small portion comes from the federal government, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Along with the proposed new building, the pantry plans to expand its current food product line to include more infant care and non-food items.
The pantry is answering in advance whether its proposed new location would interfere with student traffic, given its proximity to the county’s elementary school. It stressed it will be open three days a week — one day being Saturday, and its weekday operating hours “are primarily when school is in session.”
Also instrumental among others in the newly launched One Rappahannock campaign are Noel Lang, pantry board president; Pete Stenner, pantry treasurer; and pantry workhorse Anne Marie Stacey.
Checks made out to “The Rappahannock Food Pantry Capital Campaign” can be mailed to: The Rappahannock Food Pantry Capital Campaign, P.O. Box 451, Washington, VA 22747. Further questions can be answered by emailing OneRappPantry@gmail.com.