The story of the Xenia FISH Food Pantry is a success story that provides hope and encouragement to the community of Greene County, Ohio. It began in a church after the devastating tornado in 1974. The pantry began in 1976. The need for food by so many that were trying to reconstruct their lives precipitated its start. In the beginning, they served around 100 families per month. The pantry continued because of the need that presented itself in the community. They grew and, in 1993, moved to the back area at the county building on Ledbetter Rd. The pantry now had a space of 2200 sq ft, broken up into three rooms. The number of families had grown each year, and in 2013, the number of families served was 2,647 or 8,014 people. The need continued; by 2017, the numbers ballooned to 3,537 families or 10,824 people.
The pantry, although limited by space, tried to serve as many families as they could. Still, in 2018 the pantry went from prepacked supplies to allowing the clients, those in need, to choose what they took home from the pantry. With quantity guidelines, they could shop, more like a grocery store. We added fresh produce, dairy products, meats, and lots of dry goods to choose. The need for the pantry grew, and the space was stagnant, with no expansion possible at the current location. We were limited and not able to serve some areas of Greene County, Jamestown, and Fairborn because of the supplies that would be needed. In 2018, the numbers grew, reaching 7,874 families or 24,646 people. That was 656 families a month. The numbers would stabilize at those statistics until early 2020 when COVID 19 hit our country.
In March of 2019, the County offered an alternative space; it was a former garage that housed the Parks and Recreation Department. They were building a new garage, and they hoped to move in late 2019. The garage space would offer 7,200 sq. ft, but it would require much work to make it food-safe. Ultimately, the area was perfect. For the remainder of 2019, we spent applying for grants and raising money for the repairs. The pantry was lucky and received a Community Block Grant and, with the Counties help, made some of the needed significant repairs.
There were many repairs yet to complete, the parking lot, handicap bathrooms, handicap doors, tear down a brick wall to install a walk-in freezer/cooler, along with reconditioning a room to house the freezer portion of the walk-in. We signed the lease on January 27, 2020 and began work. The pantry progressed, but our timeline became rushed; due to COVID 19, we had to start doing a drive-thru pantry, and the volume increased as well. We had been averaging 650 to 700 families a month before the pandemic occurred. At present, we are serving over 900 families a month or 2,700 people each month.
We have faced many new expenses, such as utilities, boxes for food, food itself. We moved into the new building on May 11, 2020; this allowed us storage space, the ability to control the cars for the drive-thru and continue to provide the much-needed food supplies. At this point, we only had a temporary building permit and could have only 15 people in the building at one time. We could serve all of Greene County, Ohio. A county with a population of 167,995. At the current rate of our clients attending the pantry, we could hit a total of 9,600 families this year and a projected amount for 2021 of 10,800 families. With the projected 9,600 families of 2020, we will have given out 1,080,000 lbs of food for 2020.
Our struggles are ongoing because of the shortage of volunteers, money, food, and time to get everything done. We are victorious in the support we have received from the community to step up and donate time and materials to transform the old garage into a new community spot that all can be proud of and happily come and shop.
With that in mind, we need your help to continue to make this success story ongoing. We must continuously replace supplies, pay our bills, and keep a reserve for emergencies. We hope you will consider becoming a partner with the Xenia Fish Food Pantry and part of our success story.