Food pantry pivots amid need

Potsdam First Presbyterian Church’s Treasurer Cynthia Coleman peaks out from the church’s fellowship hall last week into the breezeway that’s home to the Little Free Pantry, which is always unlocked. It can be accessed from Elm Street or Lawrence Avenue in Potsdam. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

POTSDAM — As the pandemic-shaken economy continues to increase food insecurity among many St. Lawrence County residents, the Potsdam Interfaith Community is adding to efforts to stock its round-the-clock open pantry.

Potsdam First Presbyterian Church, 42 Elm St., houses the pantry, dubbed Little Free Pantry, and the Rev. Katrina Hebb said need for food continues to be extremely high.

“There’s definitely been an uptick,” the Rev. Hebb said, “and even while we’ve increased the amount of food on the shelves, the need seems to be matching the increased pace of stocking.”

The Rev. Hebb thinks there’s a segment of population “falling through the cracks” right now.

“... whether they make too much to receive food stamps ... if they have reduced work hours or whatever the situation may be where they’re just not bringing in enough to put food on the table consistently, this is just a small way that we can help fill in the cracks,” she added.

Around the same time the pantry was implemented about two years ago, the interfaith community also implemented free lunch Fridays, where community members could come and mingle while enjoying a meal.

While they tried to keep the program going during the coronavirus pandemic, the interfaith community realized it was most likely more efficient to change tack. They then moved toward keeping the pantry stocked with perishable goods like lunch meat, cheese, milk and bread.

“Everyone wanted to shift their focus,” the Rev. Hebb said.

While the interfaith community does have some dedicated funds it uses to purchase some food for the pantry each week, the Rev. Hebb said the pantry works both ways and anybody is encouraged to drop off goods as well.

“It’s open to anyone who wants to take food or leave food,” the Rev. Hebb said.

The pantry is located in the breezeway of the entrance to the Presbyterian Church on Elm Street, and is open 24/7 to accommodate individuals who may not feel comfortable visiting during normal business hours.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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