Market at St. Agnes feeds the hungry

Record Photo by Jessica Able
Christa Petty, left, a parishioner at St. Agnes Church, and fifth-grader Emily Warren helped to bag onions April 27 while the Dare to Care food pantry was open. The pantry was started last April and is now serving about 140 families every month.

At a time when 660,000 Kentuckians are facing hunger, St. Agnes Church’s farmer’s-market style Dare to Care food pantry recently celebrated its first anniversary.

The pantry began serving about 76 families last April. Since then it has grown steadily to serve about 140 families each month, said David Schuler, a parishioner who helped to get the pantry established at the church located at 1920 Newburg Road.

Fifteen percent of Kentucky’s overall population is facing food insecurity, according to a new report from Feeding America. Thirty-three percent are likely ineligible for federal nutrition assistance, which means they rely on charitable assistance for food, said the report. The percentage of children who are food insecure is even higher at 18 percent.

Stan Siegwald, director of strategic initiatives at Dare to Care, called this a “tragedy.” In Louisville, he said, food insecurity affects 170,000 people.
“It’s a tragedy on many levels, first in what it says about caring for the least among us,” said Siegwald.

This reality also has practical consequences, he said, noting, hunger impacts children’s ability to develop and lead fulfilling lives, he said.
In order to change that, Dare to Care depends on the “collaboration with partners throughout the greater Louisville area,” said Siegwald. “It’s exciting to have this relatively new partnership with St. Agnes.”

The Highlands area pantry offers fresh fruit and produce, dairy products, meat and canned goods. It has served senior citizens, children, military veterans, adults and refugee families, said Schuler.

Needy individuals throughout the community and their families are invited to shop at the pantry, which is set up like a farmer’s market every fourth Saturday of the month all year, he said

Only minimal information — such as zip code, number of people in the family and age — is required from the individuals who shop at the pantry, said Schuler.

The pantry is organized and operated by families from the parish and school.

Jeanette Schmidt, a parishioner whose two young children attend St. Agnes School, coordinates a monthly collection in the school for items not provided by Dare to Care. Every grade takes a turn collecting toiletries and items such as toilet paper, said Schmidt during an interview May 2. These products are available to families who come looking for food, she said.

School children and their families also help at the pantry every month.

“It’s such a hands-on experience for them. There’s a comfort level being on their school campus with their parents,” said Schmidt.
There’s something for everyone to do to help out at the pantry, she noted. Even young children can do small tasks like filling grocery bags with produce. “It’s a beautiful experience to see them do that,” she added.

The pantry has had support from the community too, said Schuler. It’s received donations of shopping carts from Kroger and Sav-a-Lot stores, produce from Valu Market and shopping bags from the Whole Foods Market. Walmart also donated dozens of turkeys for Thanksgiving.
“The support has been tremendous,” said Schuler.

He noted that many St. Agnes parishioners have made small gestures to make the experience a positive one for the individuals who seek aid at the pantry.

The parish’s eighth-grade Girl Scout troop sets up a table to distribute free books. And Michael Frick, a parishioner and chef, makes soup and serves it to those shopping at the pantry, said Schuler.

Volunteers begin each pantry event with a prayer circle, Schuler added. “We make it a point to invite the guests to join the prayer circle. Everybody holds hands. It’s pretty neat,” he said.

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