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Filling Mouths and Hearts

“The initial reason I wanted to start a food pantry was to help those residents who don’t qualify for food assistance, because of age or income. With a lot of hard work from our volunteers, it has become an amazing reality, and we look forward to helping even more people who are struggling to put food on the table.”

Samantha Morran is the service coordinator at Cambridge Square Bedford, a Glick community in Bedford, Indiana, whose residents are elderly or disabled.

Starting a food pantry was part of a larger goal to focus on nutrition and healthy eating within the community.

Many Cambridge Square residents receive food boxes through Hoosier Hills Food Bank. For residents who meet income guidelines and are over 60 years old, they receive a monthly box of food providing protein, calcium, iron and vitamins.

In addition, the community hosts a free meal site to residents through Older Americans Services Corporation, and the local Farmers Market is onsite at the community once a monthly from July through October.

But that still left a gap of unserved residents hungry for a meal. The food pantry was the last piece of the puzzle to make sure the food needs of Cambridge Square residents would be 100% covered.

Cans of food on shelves

“I did an intake assessment with a new resident in February this year and found out she has many years of experience working in and running food pantries, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get the ball rolling,” Morran said.

Sharon Poole was that new resident, and she is the head volunteer who spearheaded the start of the pantry and has contributed greatly to its growth.

“This pantry would not be functioning without Sharon,” Samantha said. “She lives in one of our buildings and is so passionate about feeding people. One day I was cooking up in my mind the thought of starting a food pantry in this community, and I feel Sharon showed up at the right place at the right time for a reason.”

But first, they needed space. All that was available was a closet, but the maintenance technicians cleaned it out and fixed things up. Sharon secured a donated freezer, donated shelves and racks, and lots of food from residents and the community.

“Sharon has gone out into the community day after day to ask for donations, and it’s amazing what we have so far,” Morran said. “She went to Rural King for food and supplies and visited a local dentist, who donated toothbrushes and other hygiene items. She’s even been doing trades with other local food pantries, trading them for items we are low on in exchange for surplus items. Then other volunteers, George and Homer, help in the pantry and assist me with coordinating vouchers. They deserve all the praise for what this food pantry has become.”

Food in freezer

Officially opened in April, the food pantry is open the last Friday of each month from 1-4 p.m. So far, the program has served around 75 people from the community. Each person who visits receives a $30 voucher to purchase food from the pantry.

“The residents seem to love the pantry, and they continue to donate when they can,” Samantha said. “It’s been absolutely wonderful, and we are almost ready to open the pantry twice a month in order to fill the tremendous need.”

Food pantry visitors get vouchers to purchase food along with recipes and meal-planning tips from staff and volunteers.

Visitors to the food pantry

“There are so many people who are hungry, but I know some people can feel embarrassed to ask for help or to show up at the food pantry,” Morran said. “That’s why I try to reach out to individual residents when I know they need the help and invite them to pick some items from the pantry when its not open to the rest of the community. There is such a small-town feel here, and everyone wants to help and take care of each other. That’s why this pantry works. Cambridge Square is a family to us all, and I want all the residents to feel like they aren’t being judged. Everyone has struggles, and we want them to know they can look to us in their need, and we will help make sure they are taken care of.”

And the word is getting out. Morran has nominated Purdue Extension in Lawrence County for the Feeding Those in Need program through Glick Philanthropies, which gives grants to local not-for-profit organizations addressing hunger and food security.

If the grant is received, Purdue Extension will partner with Cambridge Square on upgrading the pantry with new shelving, more food inventory and supplementing the pantry with additional nutrition classes and materials.

“This is a great opportunity to have a permanent relationship with Purdue Extension, and I’m hopeful, with the help of this grant, we will be able to add a community garden and other nutrition-related programming here in the future.”