The holidays are approaching quickly and local food pantries have already begun preparations.

At the Duff Street United Methodist Church Food Pantry in Clarksburg, coordinator Carolyn Greene and volunteers have been planning Thanksgiving dinners for community members in need for the past 11 years.

“Right now we’re just operating out of two small rooms because we had to demolish our main church,” said Greene. “It gets to be a problem around the holidays when you have to find places to fit all those turkeys. I use my freezer at home, another volunteer’s freezer and the freezer in the church building.”

The pantry provides Thanksgiving meals for over 22 families and has already started collecting items such as stuffing and cranberry sauce for this year’s meal. “On Thanksgiving, we put together baskets of dinner items,” Greene stated. To help control the large crowd, there will be a separate time planned on the Monday before Thanksgiving to hand out those meals.

On a normal pantry day, every family receives eggs, butter, cheese, bread, cereal, sugar, peanut butter, jelly, canned vegetables, fruit, soup, and meal helpers. They also provide cleaning and personal care items that can’t be purchased with food stamps. “Each family that comes here usually receives 5 or 6 bags of food. The larger families can receive more,” said Greene.

The Duff Street team spends several days out of their week shopping for food. Their pantry is fortunate enough to receive monetary donations to be able to purchase items that are limited. “The main change that I’ve seen in all of these years is the cost of food,” said Greene. “I used to be able to buy a lot with $100 ten years ago and now it’s a smaller amount. Even the sizes of boxes are smaller.”

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Along with food, cash, and donations from the community, the Mountaineer Food Bank also provides food for the Duff Street Pantry, as well as other local pantries to ensure they are all able to continue serving the public. The Mountaineer Food Bank serves over 600 programs in 48 counties in West Virginia.

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The Duff Street Pantry extends their services beyond food on Tuesday mornings at the church by additionally participating in the Backpack Program with local schools. The pantry provides bags of food for students in need at Wilsonburg Elementary, Adamston Elementary, and Northview Elementary.

“We put together bags usually once a month,” said Greene. “Sometimes we have to do them twice a month. We put together 400 bags with eight items in each bag, so that’s 3,200 items that we need.”

They provide 50 bags per school, but the numbers of free and reduced lunches for these schools are already over 100 students.

“We know that there are a lot of children right in this area that are in need and their families may not come to get help,” Greene explained. “So we feel that if we give them something, that lets them know we’re here for them.”

They will be participating in the Backpack Program through the holidays and have also started giving out some bags at the local bus stops.

“One of the misconceptions is that a lot of drug users and people that are too lazy to work are the ones that use the food pantries, but that has not been my experience. It’s been the families that are trying to make ends meet and there isn‘t enough money to pay the bills and rent. It‘s important that they get help this time of year.”

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The Duff Street United Methodist Church Food Pantry’s normal hours of operation are Tuesdays from 9:30AM until 1:00PM. If you would like more information on how you can donate, please call 304-622-2965.

Other local programs and pantries who will be serving those in need during the holidays include the Emergency Infant Foods Program in Clarksburg, Criss Cross Information Service in Clarksburg, Salvation Army in Clarksburg, Clarksburg Baptist Church Food Pantry, Quiet Dell Church, Senior Care of North Central WV in Nutter Fort, The Lord’s Pantry in Shinnston, Soup Opera in Fairmont, and the Mannington Food Pantry.