Bread of Life Food Pantry is headed home.
After several months of construction to build a new addition to its facility at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, while Bread of Life operated out of the Bomber Mountain Civic Center, the newly remodeled facility will open Sept. 13.
“We just want to be home,” said Kelly Norris, president of the food pantry.
The $200,000 remodeling project was funded through grants from the Episocal Diocese Foundation and CARES Act funding distributed by the Johnson County commissioners and the Casper Housing Authority, according to previous Bulletin reporting.
Construction began at the end of May, and it was completed with relatively few delays. All that’s left to do now is finish painting and move the pantry’s supplies from Bomber Mountain to the new facility, which volunteers will do on Sept. 12, Norris said.
The project involved resurfacing the parking lot and adding pantry space, a waiting room and an office.
Once the food pantry has moved into the remodeled space, though, there will be plenty more work to do. Norris said that the food pantry plans to build an educational center in the new waiting room, where they can distribute everything from recipes to assistance materials.
The office, too, will provide opportunities for growth. Previously, Norris and the other volunteers did their work from their homes. Now they’ll have a place where they can store information and work on projects together.
“There are programs and outreach that I would like us to really dig our teeth into in the community. We just did not have the capacity,” Norris said.
Now, she said, she hopes the food pantry can look into more ambitious programs, such as expanding into the middle and high schools, as well as delivering supplies to vulnerable populations that are homebound, a program that emerged during the pandemic.
The ability to expand the pantry’s capacity comes at an opportune time, Norris said.
In June, the pantry began using a new computer program that allows it to better track inventory and patron usage, and it is already revealing concerning trends.
From June to July, five new households began using the food pantry’s services. In June, 40% of patrons used the food pantry’s services more than twice. In July, that increased to 48%. As the cost of living in Buffalo continues to increase, “I don’t foresee those numbers dropping,” Norris said.
Between the addition of pantry space and the purchase of new cold storage units, Bread of Life will be able to store more food to accommodate the increased demand.
Norris asked that patrons and donors be patient as volunteers get situated in the new facility.
“I hope they love it,” Norris said.