The Greater Dover New Philadelphia Food Pantry is in an unmarked building. From the outside there’s not much to see, a few vacant businesses and a large parking lot, but two days per week, a line of people wrap around the building waiting their turn to browse the pantry shelves.
The Greater Dover New Philadelphia Food Pantry, the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank’s largest hunger-relief partner, serves approximately 650 families each week. In 2017, it distributed the equivalent of more than 2.37 million meals to its community members.
Uniquely, the pantry is fully managed and operated by volunteers. Each week, more than 100 volunteers unload and organize food items, pack boxes, and assist in loading cars.
Jim Rice, the pantry’s current volunteer chief operating officer, began volunteering with the pantry more than 10 years ago when he retired to the area. What began as a mere volunteer opportunity helping unload a truck, has become his labor of love.
During his tenure, Rice has been most surprised by the frequency of the pantry usage. He says that most clients use the pantry only seven times per year.
“A lot of people believe food pantries create dependency, instead of being a lifeline for people. However, they only use it when they need it,” he explained.
The pantry also offers a weekly delivery service, providing a 30-pound box of food to approximately 70 individuals who cannot drive, have mobility issues or are homebound. Access to food can be difficult as there is no form of public transportation available in Tuscarawas County.
The pantry also does an excellent job of providing its clients with fresh, nutritious produce, provided by the Foodbank for free. Last year, more than 1.16 million
pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables were given to families. To help ensure the safety of refrigerated items, the pantry benefited from a $10,000 grant for a
refrigerated trailer secured by the Foodbank from BJ’s Charitable Foundation.
“Without our partnership, there would be no pantry,” said Rice when reflecting on his relationship with the Foodbank. “We wouldn’t be able to afford the quantity
of food we’d need, and we would not be ending hunger in our area.”