If your church is large enough or in an area where there are a sufficient amount of people needing assistance with food, you may want to consider a food pantry. The size would depend on the need and the availability of other assistance. If you are just looking to help those in your own church and their network, you may only need a moderate size pantry. If you are going to open it up to the public, depending on the number of other pantries in the area, you may need a larger pantry.
What should you stock?
When planning a food pantry it is good to know what to buy or ask donors for. If allowed, you will find that many good minded people will donate food that you cannot use. It may be outdated or items that are not very popular. It helps if you can supply people with a list based around six basic groups. Those groups could be breakfast, lunch, dinner, toiletries, paper supplies, and necessary clothing. Also, you need to determine how often you will be using the pantry. If occasional use by those that drop by or are in need in congregation then set up an area for mainly can goods and boxed goods that will keep. If there are weekly pick-ups you may want to add things that you can refrigerate. If there is daily traffic you may want to include an area with fresh donated food.
Here are some of the basics:
Breakfast – STORED: Cereals, breakfast bars, dried milk, fruit juices, coffee, and tea. REFRIGERATION: Eggs, milk, cheeses, some meats. DAILY: Pastries and baked goods.
Lunch – STORED: Peanut butter & jelly, tuna fish, canned meats, meals in a can, i.e., Spaghetti-O’s, stews, hash, ravioli, soups, condiments for sandwiches, crackers, and cookies. REFRIGERATION: Cold cuts, lunch meats, cheese, eggs, milk, and some meats. DAILY: Prepared food for reheating and sandwiches.
Dinner – STORED: Canned fruits & vegetables, beans, pasta, rice, sauces, canned tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Canned meats, soups, and meals. Jello and pudding. Box and jar baby food. REFRIGERATION: Cold cuts, cheese, milk, and some meats. Casseroles and precooked meals. DAILY: Prepared food for reheating.
Toiletries – Soap, shampoo, conditioners, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, and foot powder.
Paper supplies – Toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, diapers, and handi-wipes.
Necessary clothing – Underwear, socks, tee-shirts, clothes, warm coats and hats.
If you or someone in your church is seriously interested in having a ministry like this, I would encourage you to make a few calls and find out what other churches or agencies are doing. Ask them for help and find out what the true need is in your area.