Sparta pantry holds biggest Christmas food giveaway in memory

Sparta. Board president and director Valerie Macchio said the food pantry is seeing a significant increase in need because of the pandemic, with five times the number of clients it had last year.

Sparta /
| 24 Dec 2020 | 12:37

Sparta’s Ecumenical Food Pantry had a successful 2020 Christmas food giveaway on Dec.16 thanks to many volunteers and donations. The annual endeavor will feed approximately 1,300 local families this year.

Valerie Macchio, board president and director, said the food pantry is seeing a significant increase in need because of the pandemic.

“This is the largest Christmas program since I have been involved with the pantry in the last 13 years,” said Macchio. “The pantry has five times the amount of client base since last year.”

Despite the logistical and numerical challenges presented by COVID-19, it was business as usual for the pantry, except for some helpful tweaks. Located at the First Presbyterian Church of Sparta, at 32 Main St., the pantry kept its operating hours the same and, to play it safe, added a new delivery program.

“The delivery program caters to senior housing and individuals with health issues,” Macchio said. “The goal was to keep the most vulnerable inside.”

The Christmas program starts in October with local schools, agencies and churches signing up to help along with the pantry clients. Macchio said a complete Christmas meal is offered, coordinated with a toy march held by the First Presbyterian women’s group.

“Our volunteers are friendly and try to make clients feel at ease,” said Macchio. “Many new clients obviously would rather not be there. But by making our clients feel comfortable with a smile and treating them with respect, we help people get over the hurdles life can throw at you.”

The Sparta Ecumenical Food Pantry has been feeding food-insecure residents in the community for 30 years. Food is collected on a year-round basis from various donor sources and is then bagged and distributed two days a week at the church.

The pantry is open Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, call 862-266-0563.