ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – A food pantry in Tompkins County is temporarily closed.
The Food Bank of the Southern Tier says they’ve temporarily suspended deliveries until the Enfield Food Pantry and the town make improvements to address food safety concerns.
For the past two weeks, Jean Owens has been worrying about how to feed people in her town. She’s the coordinator for the Enfield Food Pantry and pastor of a local church.
Enfield is a rural town about six miles from Ithaca.
She’s especially concerned about what’s going to happen now that school is out.
“Kids are going to be home soon!” Owens said, “And now the parents are extremely concerned about how they’re gonna feed the children who’ve been receiving school lunches. In Enfield, the school has over seventy percent of the children receive help their lunches and breakfasts.”
The pantry says it serves around six hundred people in a town of little over three thousand. Until a year ago they were only opened on day a week. After discussions with fifth graders at the local school, they added weekend hours on Sundays to help working people who can’t get to the pantry on weekdays.
The pantry receives most of its food from the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. As part of their agreement, CEO Natasha Thompson says the Food Bank inspects all the pantries they work with- every couple of years.
It’s not unusual to find some problems. But this year, in Enfield they found a potential rodent problem.
“Unfortunately,” Thompson said, “these were issues that were beyond the control of the pantry. They’re in a space that’s owned by the town. And there are other things going on that are beyond their control. So, we’re hoping to try to address those things as quickly as possible.”
So, the Food Bank wants them to start a pest management plan. They also must get metal shelving to store food higher off the ground and away from the walls. Currently, boxes of some food are stored in pallets.
Wednesday night the Enfield Town Council unanimously voted to help make the necessary changes to the town’s building where the pantry is located.
Thompson and Owens spoke at the meeting. So did a number of people who rely on the pantry for food. They urged the town council to help the pantry make the necessary improvements.
One woman spoke about not having a car. She said she may not be able to get to the other pantries the Food Bank is suggesting town residents use until the Enfield Pantry re-opens.
Activists in the Poor People’s Campaign in Tompkins County are organizing rides to help people get to other pantries.
Other news outlets falsely reported that the Food Bank is requiring the pantry to buy a $17,000 walk-in freezer to re-open. That’s not correct. The pantry has decided to get a new freezer for the frozen meats and vegetables.
The pantry hopes to resume regular hours in a 2-3 weeks.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Celia occasionally volunteers for the Enfield Food Pantry.