ENFIELD, N.Y. — The Enfield food pantry is back in operation after a temporary shutdown due to health concerns and needed upgrades. With immense community support, the pantry was able to raise $22,000 to upgrade the facility and get the work done to reopen.

The pantry was forced to close in early June after it did not pass an inspection by the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. The biggest health concern was a rodent infestation, Natasha Thompson, president and CEO of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier previously told The Ithaca Voice.

The pantry services about 180 to 200 families per week, so it was critical that it reopened as soon as possible. In May, the distribution site served food to an average of 46 elderly, 190 children and 320 adults per week.

Volunteers work Monday morning to set up the Enfield Food Distribution site. (Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice)
Volunteers work Monday morning to set up the Enfield Food Distribution site. (Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice)

To reopen, the pantry had to complete a number of tasks, including establishing a pest control program to prevent future infestations; general building upgrades; installing shelving units and racks to store food off the floor, and they had to address perishable food storage. Enfield Food Distribution opted to raise funds for a walk-in freezer to improve food storage.

With community donations and a lot of volunteer effort, the food pantry reopened at the beginning of July and is back to serving more than 180 families per week. Jean Owens, pantry director, said the pantry looks completely different. Food is no longer stored on pallets, and is instead organized neatly on shelves.

While getting the pantry ready to open with volunteers on Monday, Owens said she has been completely blown away by the community support. She said hundreds of people helped out, either monetarily or through work efforts.

“Just from community members and organizations contacting us, churches, other pantries, amazing,” Owens said. “Because of that, we were able to get an amazing amount of work done in a month.”

A GoFundMe campaign online raised $6,610, and in total, they raised over $22,000 to pay for all the needed equipment. The biggest bill was for the new 8-by-10-foot walk-in freezer from B&W Supply Co., which was over $13,000. The Community Foundation of Tompkins County donated $1,800 to close the funding gap for the project, a news release said.

Fresh produce is lined on tables Monday as volunteers set up for food distribution. (Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice)
Fresh produce is lined on tables Monday as volunteers set up for food distribution. (Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice)

Located in the Enfield Community Building at 182 Enfield Main Road, the pantry has operated for decades and is sponsored by the First Baptist Church of Enfield Center.

Over the years, the type of food the pantry receives and disburses has changed a lot, Owens, who has served as pantry director for 45 years, said. While canned goods were once the main item given out, Owens said now there is a lot more fresh produce and frozen foods, as well as dairy and eggs, and other items that need refrigeration. So getting the walk-in freezer was necessary, she said.

In June when they had to close, Owens said she didn’t know how all of the work would come together in so little time.

“As we were closing in towards the end of the work, we were really spurred on to get this done because I kept running into clients who were out of food that, although other pantries welcomed them, getting to the other pantries logistically was a nightmare,” Owens said.

To help with transportation, the Poor People’s Campaign stepped in to offer rides. The Food Bank of the Southern Tier also offered two special distribution runs with its mobile food pantry truck.

In a statement, Thompson said the renovations will give the Enfield food pantry a solid foundation moving forward. “In the long run, the pantry is much cleaner, they have the equipment that they need, they have the support of the town board, and hopefully Jean feels the support of the broader community,” she said. “I think this is a good example of how we’re all in this together.”

Any Enfield resident in need of food is eligible to receive food. An application is available online or on site. The food distribution center is located at the Enfield Community Building, 182 Enfield Main Rd.

Distribution is held on Mondays from 1 to 3:30 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 1 p.m. For more information about Enfield Food Distribution, visit townofenfield.org/enfield-food-distribution.

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.