MIFFLINTOWN - The Juniata County Food Pantry is celebrating 30 years of operation and service to families throughout the county.
Since opening it's doors for the first time in 1982, the pantry has grown in size, support, food options and community donations, said Kathy Queitzsch, executive director for the Juniata County Food Pantry.
"To meet the 40-fold increase in service since 1982, the food pantry has grown accordingly from its modest start in the basement of a church," Queitzsch said. "I am incredibly proud and exceedingly humble to have been a part of ... the Juniata County Food Pantry (and) its history."
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Todd Olnick, left, of New Life Church; and Makenzie Bishop, of the Juniata High School Key Club, volunteer their time to stock the shelves Wednesday at the Juniata County Food Pantry.
The Food Pantry was originally operated by volunteers from four churches of the Mifflintown and Mifflin boroughs, serving an average of 7.5 families a month, Queitzsch said. Now, more than 70 churches support the pantry with more than 400 hours of service a month while providing for 300 local families, she said.
"It seems miraculous to me ... that with the help of this community, the Juniata County Food Pantry has been able to rise to meet the challenges dealt by an unstable economy and still offer a hand of help and hope to the hundreds of poverty stricken folks who come to us for aid each month," Queitzsch said.
In the early years, based on a yearly budget, the food pantry was serving an average of 136 people at a cost of $20 per person. With the help of community donations and an increase in state funding, the food pantry is now serving 850 individuals a month at a cost of less than $16 each, Queitzsch said.
Originally, meals were provided in pre-packed boxes, but families that come to the Food Pantry now have a choice of groceries which creates less waste and meets special dietary requirements, Queitzsch said.
"We were blessed to obtain a permanent home in 2009, centrally located, with plenty of room for growth and storage," Queitzsch said. "In 2011, the acquisition of a 16-foot box truck enabled us to pick-up large donations of food and supplies, as well as truck food to the needy at far ends of the county."
One thing, however, has remained the same since 1982, Queitzsch said. People in Juniata County are still struggling to make a living and many, over 2,500 according to the 2010 census, are living below the poverty level, unable to afford food, clothing and shelter, she said.
"But there are (also) people who still care," Queitzsch said. "In the past year, the generous people of Juniata County have blessed the food pantry with $143,500 in monetary donations, 110,600 pounds of food and non-food donations and 5,500 hours of service."
The Juniata County Food Pantry is now collecting donations for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, including turkeys, hams, cranberry sauce, stuffing, canned sweet potatoes, instant mashed potatoes, gravy mix packets and dessert mixes. However, The pantry is always looking for non-perishable foods like baby care, personal care, cleaning and paper supplies, Queitzsch said.
The food pantry, located at 114 N. Main St, Mifflintown, will be accepting food donations during the operating hours of 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Monday and Wednesday and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. each Saturday. Non-perishable donations may be left at any time. Cash, check or gift card donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 44, Mifflintown, 17059. For more information, contact the Juniata County Food Pantry at 436-9718.