As you know, whenever we go to the grocery store these days we notice how much more things cost now than they did five years ago, or even last year. Our food costs for Esther's Pantry and our facilities have gone up significantly!
Lucky for us, we have some very generous local grocers who donate fresh food to us on a weekly basis. Whole Foods and New Seasons provide us with high quality food that our clients look forward to receiving. These are often things that they could never afford on their own - such as unique cheeses, produce, desserts, pastries, yogurts and other treats that are typicaly beyond their price ranges. We are so very grateful for their support of our food programs.
Over the past four months, we have received an average of 5000 pounds of donated food each month for our clients. This is food that we typically would have to buy, but the quality and selection are much better from these donations. We are very lucky to have these local grocers as our supporters.
This month we were able to move into a new home for Esther's and Tod's. Providence Health and Services provided two separate locations for the food pantry and the free thrift store. It is only two blocks from the previous location. An added bonus are the waiting rooms at each location. This means that our clients no longer need to wait outside in the weather when there is a line-up of clients. We are very grateful for the generosity of Providence. The space is much more open and inviting and clients have a much easier time navigating through the different selection areas.
We also started opening one extra day to alleviate some of the pressure on the other days. This allows people to take more time to select the foods that they want.
Because of more donations of food from local grocers like Whole Foods and New Seasons Markets, we are able to get a great variety of fresh foods and breads, while at the same time supplementing our budget. Last month total donations of food hit a record 6,923 pounds.
Each month we have additional volunteers that help with the work at Esther's and Tods. Last month we had 12 volunteers who donated 280 hours. In addition, for the move we had 25 volunteers who each donated between a half day to a full day of their time.
Recently, we found out that the building that Esther's Pantry now occupies has been sold. The closing date is somewhere around February, and we will need to relocate soon. We have been looking at several possible sites, but have not yet secured one. Because the previous landlord (Providence) paid for the lease as well as utilities, we estimate that the annual operating costs will increase by about $80,000 to $100,000.
We will be looking to the community for support for this critical service. Because we are trying to locate it more centrally to be closer to most of the clients that utilize it, we estimate that the number of clients will increase as well. We currently serve about 700 clients per year, and estimate that it will increase by about 25% just because it will be more convenient.
During the Holidays, food always plays and important role in our lives. Those that visit our pantry are not always so lucky to have the bounty of food that you see on our tables at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Many individuals and organizations have chosen Esther's Pantry and Tod's Corner to donate food and clothing during this time.
Local grocers often have an oversupply of fresh produce that would otherwise go to waste. New Seasons and Whole Foods donate much of this wonderful supply of food so that we can use them at Esther's Pantry and the other food programs in our residential facilities. We are very appreciative of the generosity of these wonderful people. This summer, we have received thousands of pounds of food that we were able to distribute to needy families that welcomed the amazing variety of food.
Our Community gardens are also producing an abundant crop that have been used in the kitchens. The residents have been working hard and have seen their efforts grow, bloom and produce throughout the summer. It has been a very rewarding experience for them and they are very proud of their efforts.
This year, our residents and clients have been very excited about creating a community garden. Because we have been emphasizing good nutrition and looking closely at our budget as well, this is a perfect project. It is also a wonderful occupational therapy project.
At Our House we transformed the curbside property into a productive vegetable garden. At Swan House, we added planter boxes to the front property. There are early crops such as peas and radishes. There are also later producing vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and other nutritious vegetables that can easily supplement our current food supply.
Although we do get a lot of donations of produce from local grocers and other providers, the vegetables that we grow ourselves have special meaning and we know what is put into the soil and how it is harvested. Any excess harvest can be easily donated to Esther's Pantry (our food pantry).
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