HOLT, Fla., April 1, 2021—The Holt Community Food Pantry is cutting back its hours next month due to fewer customers.
Beginning in May, the pantry will only be open the second Wednesday of the month instead of every Wednesday.
Because of the short notice, this month, the pantry will be open April 7 and 14, but will not open April 21 or 28.
“For the past few months, we’ve been seeing a trend as our clients drop off,” said pantry director Donna Ash. “Our volunteers have less work to do because of fewer customers.”
According to pantry manager Jackie Tyler, people needing food have steadily decreased during the past six months.
“We went from servicing 145 to 150 families per month last summer to a low of 83 families in March,” she said.
Possibilities for fewer customers range from the amount of free food distributions throughout Okaloosa County to COVID-19 stimulus money and extended unemployment benefits, said Ash.
The amount of free food being distributed throughout the county has also affected regularly scheduled food delivery quantities to the Holt pantry.
“We’ve been receiving less food from our food bank sources during the past few months as well,” Ash said. Regularly scheduled food deliveries to the pantry have been cancelled because of a lack of donated food products.
Cutting back on operating hours means financial savings for the pantry and fewer volunteer hours for the staff, she said.
Related: “Holt food pantry helps fight hunger locally”
“We’ll be able to cut down on the number of people we need every week to run the pantry,” said Ash. “This decision will help the pantry both financially and in volunteer hours.”
The pantry operates with an all-volunteer force. Every Tuesday, volunteers drive to Milton to pick up food purchased by the pantry from Feeding the Gulf Coast.
Every other Friday, Destin Harvest brings anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 pounds of produce, dairy, breads and other frozen food and dry goods that need to be offloaded by volunteers and stored in freezers, refrigerators and on shelves.
On Wednesdays, when the pantry is open, seven-to-ten people are needed to keep the line of people waiting in vehicles down to a minimum, said Tyler. Because of COVID-19, customers remain in their vehicles and pantry volunteers place food bags in their cars.
Behind the scenes, volunteers maintain records, fill food bags and re-sort and manage food remaining on the shelves.
But for now, the pantry will cut back because of a lack of customers.
“We’ll watch how the numbers go,” said Ash. “If our clients numbers go back up, we’ll adjust our pantry operating hours accordingly.”