Summer months test The Lord’s Cupboard

Summer months test The Lord’s Cupboard

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
Joni Ham-Olson stands in a donation room at The Lord’s Cupboard, which was too full to walk through last fall. This summer, as is typical, the shelves start to thin out as donations wane.

The Lord’s Cupboard would like to remind Fort Dodge that the need for food donations continues, even into the summer.

“We’re at a time in the year when our needs are greater and our donations slow down during the summer months,” said Director Joni Ham-Olson. “Outside of the holiday season, people are thinking about summer vacations and not so much what’s going on.”

When school’s out, kids aren’t getting one or two meals each day at school, putting an extra strain on some food insecure families. Seasonal migrant workers detassling the corn also test the pantry during the summer.

Ham-Olson estimates that local needs may be more acute than national food insecurity statistics. No Kid Hungry estimates that one in six children live in food insecure households, many of them working families.

Right now, Ham-Olson says canned fruits and vegetables go quickly. Baking items are frequently asked for at the pantry. The Lord’s Cupboard no longer carries them due to cost, but will accept donations.

Other items not frequently in stock at the food bank that distribute food to pantries like The Lord’s Cupboard include syrup, jelly and cereal. The pantry regularly buys cereal from local grocery stores at retail price, which can add up quickly on a budget.

For middle- and upper-class families not familiar with being challenged for the next meal, the pantry encourages them to see the operation where families can get about a week’s worth of food up to five times per year.

“If it doesn’t concern them, they don’t think about it,” Ham-Olson said is sometimes the case with families. She used to be one of those people, until she started volunteering in October. She encourages everyone to see the variety of people and families they serve on a regular basis — from the homeless, to the retired on a fixed income, to the traditional family that’s fallen on hard times.

Before the pantry celebrates its 45th anniversary this year, it is mindful of addressing accessibility issues in its current location on 10th Street that requires clients to navigate stairs underneath the Methodist Church’s office.

“We’re working on a solution to that,” she said, as a committee explores whether to install a costly elevator or move to a more suitable floor-level location.

But, “the good Lord always provides.”