The successful operation of a food pantry obviously depends upon a regular supply of donated food products. However, in order for a food pantry to serve the needs of those individuals and families that are less fortunate, this type of agency requires cash donations as well. Many food pantries rely upon grants from churches and other religious organizations to provide funding for their operations. These churches and religious organizations tend to make grants that serve three different purposes.
The connection between churches and food pantries or banks is longstanding. Churches established the first food pantries, initially to support their own congregants who fell upon hard times. Ultimately, many churches expanded the scope of their food banks to assist people in need beyond their own members. During the Great Depression, food pantries or banks independent of churches were established in communities across the United States in ever increasing numbers. A trend began which continues to this day in which many food pantries, including those with some sort of religious foundation, nevertheless are operated independently of any individual church or religious organization.
A type of funding that churches extend to food pantries is the one-time grant. A church will provide a food pantry with a lump sum of money, usually designated for a specific purpose. A common example of a one-time church grant is funding that is designated to assist a food pantry in paying for improvements to a facility from which a food bank operates. Churches will also offer one-time grants in situations in which a community is particularly hard hit economically, driving an ever-increasing number of individuals to access the services and resources of a food pantry. These grants are used to supplement the food stock maintained at a particular facility.
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Many churches elect to extend grants that provide ongoing funding to food pantries. Typically a church will designate a specific amount of money to be paid to a food bank on a monthly or quarterly basis. Other times, a church will provide a recurring annual grant to a food pantry. Ongoing funding from a church often is used to assist in defraying administrative costs of running a food bank. This permits donations from individuals to be used to make donations that provide direct client assistance. Some churches make these types of ongoing funding grants to food pantries to allow the organizations the ability to purchase non-food items that are necessary to the operation of the food bank---equipment as well as various supplies like bags and boxes.
Another type of grant available from churches to food pantry programs is dedicated towards defraying start up costs. The reality is that starting a food pantry requires the investment of capital to prepare a facility for this type of operation. Retrofitting a facility to be used as a food bank can be costly with the need to acquire everything from refrigeration and freezer equipment to other items necessary to stock and maintain food for less fortunate individuals and families.
Many churches want to be involved in the work of food pantries. Churches, as is the case with other types of organizations and businesses more generally, tend to have restrictive budgets. Therefore, some food bank directors or development (fund raising) staff members shy away from some churches. The fact is that even smaller congregations tend to be inclined to support the work of a food pantry. Therefore, even though such a church might not be able to give a monetarily large grant, it is vital to keep in mind that small grants add up and can have a very positive impact on the creation or operation of a food pantry.
- Faith-Based Grants: Aligning Your Church to Receive Abundance, Beverly A. Browning, 2005
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