HOLT, Fla., Dec. 5, 2022—Holt’s pantry received a bonus food delivery last week of donations from Crestview High School.
More than 1,200 pounds of canned and dry goods were unloaded at the Holt Community Food Pantry Nov. 28, donated by Crestview High School Leadership’s annual canned food drive.
“This was the most we’ve ever received from Crestview Leadership,” said pantry director Donna Ash. “They conduct a food drive this time every year, but I’ve always been able to fit it all into my car.”
In the past, every nook and cranny of Ash’s car would be filled with CHS Leadership donations. However, this year it was more than her car could handle.
Pantry volunteer Billy Holt used his box trailer to haul the hundreds of bags and boxes of groceries to the pantry where volunteers made trip after trip unloading the delivery using shopping baskets, hand trucks, and strong backs and arms.
The size of the load astounded pantry volunteers.
“What we’ve received in the past would fit in Donna’s car, but not this time,” said pantry manager Jackie Tyler. “People really wanted to share and participate in the joy and blessings of the holiday season this year.”
After unloading hundreds of bags and boxes, volunteers then began the long task of sorting the food which took up the rest of the morning and into the early afternoon.
It took pantry workers more than four hours to unload, sort and stock shelves, tables and other storage spaces with canned fruit, soups and vegetables, packages of rice and cereals, and other dry goods.
After sorting, volunteers used the donated food to organize and fill bags for Wednesday’s regular distribution. Although a generous amount of food was donated, it will only last about a month, according to Tyler.
The pantry helps about 100-125 families a month; however 203 families were served in November, a monthly record, she said.
In addition to holiday food drives by CHS, Crestview Rotary Club, Tiffany Woodham State Farm, as well as May’s annual national letter carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger drive, the pantry receives food donations every other week from Destin Harvest, a hunger relief organization serving Okaloosa and Walton counties.
As of May, the pantry was approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to receive food donations through its emergency food assistance program, which is administered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The federal program helps supplement diets of low-income Americans by providing them with emergency food assistance at no cost.
Now every month, the pantry receives a shipment of meat, dairy, produce and dry goods from USDA, one of only three pantries in Okaloosa County to receive free food from the federal program.
To supplement specific types of food that may be missing from the different donation sources, the pantry also purchases food below wholesale costs from Feeding the Gulf Coast, a member of Feeding America, from its Milton branch.
The Holt Community Food Pantry is operated as an outreach mission by the First Baptist Church of Holt with volunteers from the church as well as people throughout the community.
“It started with just a few cans. Now we’re giving out two weeks’ worth of food per family,” said church pastor Curt Rainey during a pantry volunteer thank-you luncheon last month. “Churches that are 10 times our size don’t have food pantries like this. It’s a testament to the 25-plus workers who work here each week.”
How to help
There are a number of ways people can support the Holt Community Food Pantry.
Food and monetary donations can be dropped off at the First Baptist Church of Holt. Checks should be annotated that they’re specifically for the pantry.
Tuesdays through Thursdays, donations can be dropped off at the Holt Water Works office between 8 a.m. and noon.
For those living and working outside Holt, donations also can be dropped off at Always Blooming Landscape Services at 958A W. James Lee Blvd., located between Crestview Hardware and Crestview Paint and Body Shop.