Community Food Pantry

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Open to the Public
Monday: 9:00-11:00 a.m.
Tuesday: 1:00-3:00 p.m. and 6:30-8:00 p.m.
Wednesday: 9:00-11:00 a.m.
Thursday: 1:00-3:00 p.m.

Download brochure here

Download brochure in Spanish here

Suggested Items for Donations . . .

Mac and cheese                     Hamburger Helper
Canned meats, tuna             Canned soups, stew
Canned ravioli, chili             Canned beans, sloppy joe
Canned spaghetti(os)           Spaghetti sauce
Baby formula/food               Canned fruit
Canned vegetables                Jello, Pudding
Granola bars                          Popcorn
Peanut butter                         Juice
Pre-packaged meat               Spaghetti
Dried beans, rice                   Tomato Sauce
Ramen Noodles                     Potatoes (dehydrated)
Pasta                                        Cereal
Brownie, cake mixes            Corn bread mix

Toilet paper
Diapers, wipes
Dish soap
Cleaning supplies
Laundry supplies
Paper Towels

National Council for Aging Care: “The Facts Behind Senior Hunger”

Highlights of Bethesda Community Food Pantry

The Bethesda Community Food Pantry has humble beginnings. As we have said, it all began with a bag of groceries. Back in 1983, Pastors Les Gyllstrom and Charles Berdahl gave some food from the church kitchen to a young mother who needed it to feed her three small children. She was grateful and a need was met. To prepare for such emergencies, the pastors decided to invite Bethesda’s parishioners to bring food items for the Thanksgiving worship service. Bethesda responded, and this was the beginning of the Bethesda Community Food Pantry.

The need grew and a small food supply was maintained in the church. As time went on, the need for food continued to grow. When the church added a new kitchen in 1990, a section of the old kitchen was converted for use for the food pantry. The west end of Centennial Hall now houses the food pantry, with frozen and refrigerator space, shelves for all kinds of products, and a waiting area for our guests, people who come to the food pantry to get through tough times in their lives.

Bethesda again had an opportunity to respond to an emergency and meet community-wide needs during the Flood of 1993. The Bethesda Food Pantry became the hub for much of the food distribution in the Ames community when the Human Services Building on South Duff was flooded. This building housed all supplies for another emergency food program, Mid-Iowa Community Action. The Bethesda Food Pantry assisted MICA and their clients. An overflow of donations and food, cleaning supplies, diapers, and baby food came from Ames and around the country. The Food Pantry became a large operation, open every day, run almost entirely by volunteers from Bethesda with assistance from people from other church and community organizations. By the fall of 1993, the Bethesda Food Pantry was again operating on its own. But Bethesda had become known community-wide as the church that helps people in need. Referrals came from social service agencies, and word-of-mouth brought others.

It was a big day on July 23, 1998, when Governor Terry Branstad recognized five people who had worked with the Bethesda Food Pantry. Dick and Darlene Hade, Clarence Jones, and Pearl and John Sauke were honored with outstanding volunteer service awards from the governor. Later that year, the Bethesda Food Pantry also was the beneficiary when Barilla opened its $125 million pasta plant in Ames. The Italian company donated its first 280,000 lb. of pasta (about 18-20 semi-truckloads) to United Way, some of which made its way to food pantries in 32 communities.

Bethesda Community Food Pantry continued to be recognized in the community and to be supported by many individuals and organizations. Many groups regularly give to the food pantry, both financial contributions and donations of food. Ames letter carriers participate in an annual food drive each May, and some of those donations come to Bethesda. The same is true of Boy Scout troops, Iowa State University student organizations, neighborhood groups, businesses, and hundreds of individuals. Within the past year, the Bethesda Community Food Pantry has received donations from 20 Ames area businesses, 20 different congregations, 19 civic groups, 9 ISU employee-student groups, 4 non-ISU public agencies, and 7 schools and youth programs. In 2009, contributions totaled $56,422, and that did not include food items. Bethesda Lutheran Church provides the facility and utilities, but no budget for the food pantry. That’s where voluntary contributions–in food, money, and volunteers–comes in.

This year marked the addition of one evening a week that the food pantry would be open. Today the food pantry is open five times a week–Monday and Wednesday mornings, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, and Tuesday evenings from 6:30 to 8 p.m. each week. This effort requires at least 100 volunteers. The food pantry in 2000 served about 200 families each month (about 600 people) and distributed 3,400 sacks of groceries. This also was the year that the food pantry began offering vouchers to guests so that people could buy dairy products at local grocery stores. Welfare reform and local situations continued to increase the need for emergency food. The number of people served by the food pantry increased by 24 percent from 2001 to 2002. A 2002 survey of food pantry recipients showed some of the reasons for the large jump: 27 percent said they were unemployed; 40 percent said they worked low-wage jobs; and 14 percent said they were retired and lived on a small income. They noted related problems: high cost of rent and utilities, the struggle to find full-time jobs, and the low pay of many jobs.