By Anna Young –
At a time when many families are struggling to make ends meet, the Community Food Pantry of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown provides groceries to hundreds of families in need every month.
In an effort to take care of an average of 250 hungry families, Rachelle Gebler, president of the food pantry, said volunteers carefully select nutritious foods and fresh produce following doctors’ guidelines and running the charitable organization as a healthy choice pantry.
“There are a lot of kids in these families and we want to make sure they’re getting the healthiest food possible,” Gebler said. “We really do try to stay away from purchasing foods with empty calories that aren’t nutritious. I wouldn’t give out food I wouldn’t eat myself.”
Despite the pantry spending $6,000 each month on roughly 4,000 pounds of food, support from the Green Thumb Challenge Grant has allowed them to provide each family with at least two bags of fresh produce every month. Along with non-perishable items like grains, pasta and beans, clients will also receive a healthy meat option.
Gebler added that clients are also given the opportunity to look through the pantry and decide what they want to take home before distribution day.
Distribution is the second Thursday of each month from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“If they don’t want canned beans or don’t need pasta, they don’t need to take it,” Gebler said. “It maintains some dignity on the part of the client that they get to decide what’s best for them and their family.”
Families are also enlisted in the pantry’s Farmer’s Market token program, a program where clients are given tokens to buy Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) approved products at the Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow Farmer’s Market at Patriot Park.
“Our clients are getting really fresh food and they’re able to take part in the Farmer’s Market because they wouldn’t have been able to before because it’s expensive,” Gebler said. “We help our clients stay healthy and also help them become more a part of the community.”
While holidays can be rough for some, this Thanksgiving Gebler said the pantry supplied each client with a $15 gift card to C-Town along with their monthly distribution. She added that the pantry can only afford to do something special for one holiday, with gift cards costing the pantry close to $4,000.
“We use our money to purchase the cards and distribute them in November. That way they can buy what they need for the holidays,” she said. “Maybe it’s a chicken, maybe it’s diapers; they get to decide.”
Every month since 2009, the volunteers at the food pantry make sure anyone who shows up on distribution day leaves with at least two bags of groceries to take home. The pantry requires a Sleepy Hollow or Tarrytown residency and a referral stating how many family members are in a household.
Gebler said she, along with the pantry’s several volunteers, feel fortunate to receive constant support, funding and donations from the community to continue helping those in need.
“The community really supports what we’re doing and it’s amazing and why we keep doing it,” Gebler said. “It’s rewarding in a sense that we’re all working together and hopefully helping a few of our neighbors in the process.”
The Community Food Pantry of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown is located on 43 South Broadway in Tarrytown. To learn more, visit www.communityfoodpantryshtt.org.