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Site for food pantry sought

SOLON– Local families in need may soon find help by way of a planned food pantry in Solon.
The Crisis Center of Johnson County is teaming with Solon Senior Advocates, Our Lord’s Church, St. Mary Catholic Church, and Solon Methodist Church to establish a Solon food pantry that will also serve the greater north Johnson County area.
Solon Senior Advocates President Sandy Hanson said the Crisis Center will provide the framework for the Solon pantry, so the group isn’t starting from scratch.
The Crisis Center is offering technical support and guidance.
Last year, over 200 bags of groceries and food were given to about 20 Solon families at the Crisis Center in Iowa City.
Hanson said there is also a need in Swisher and Shueyville where some families are having trouble putting food on the table.
Hanson and Larry Meister headed up a steering committee that met on Dec. 14 at the Solon Public Library. About 20 interested volunteers showed up with questions and ideas for the project.
Meister announced that Bridge Community Bank has donated $100 to the project.
The proposed pantry’s biggest hurdle is finding a proper space with a secure setting and rooms for food shelves, refrigerators and freezers. The team has put out a call for food pantry host sites. Some options discussed at the meeting included churches, schools and heated garages.
A rent-free location was considered by most at the meeting to be the only feasible option so that all money that comes into the program can go to buying food. Hanson said one site in Solon had been offered at $300 a month to the group.
The ongoing issue of logistics was also discussed at the meeting; where to get food, how to keep it from spoiling, picking it up and bringing it to Solon for distribution.
Wednesday was tentatively chosen as the one day when a Solon Food Pantry might be open to avoid conflicts with other food banks in North Liberty and Iowa City.
The pantry will likely be open one day per week to start and has already been promised food from the Crisis Center as part of its mission to serve the entire county.
Sara Witry, the food bank coordinator at the Crisis Center, said the center also plans to establish satellites in five other underserved locations in Johnson County.
Hanson estimated the Solon pantry would serve about 40 people.
The Crisis Center food bank serves about 100 to 150 people per day at its Iowa City location and is open Monday through Friday. To contact the Crisis Center, call 319-351-0128.
At the Dec. 14 meeting, David Wellendorf, volunteer coordinator and transportation manager at Table to Table, told those assembled that if they thought they’d need one freezer, get two. “I think you’ll get more of a reaction or need than you think you’ll get,” because of Solon locals who will walk to the pantry but not to Iowa City for food. “Your numbers will rise a bit more than you think,” he added.
Table to Table works to bring good food to those in need through agencies that serve homeless, hungry and at-risk populations. The Iowa City non-profit just announced that they’ve rescued over 1 million pounds of food in the past 12 months.
The next meeting to organize the food pantry is Friday, Jan 20.  Contact Solon Senior Advocates at 624-2710 for more information.