Brown’s hiring no longer makes Patten the youngest employee at the pantry.
“It’s actually unusual for us to have young people in the pantry. Up until recently, I was the youngest person in the organization, and I’m 53,” he said.
The busiest two months for the pantry was at the start of the pandemic in 2020, Patten said.
“It got super, super crazy busy,” he said. “People were panicking because the word was out because a lot of pantries were closing, so we just got overwhelmed with people coming from other parts of the area, like from Cincinnati.”
Staff, board members and volunteers stepped up in the early months of the pandemic as the pantry transitioned its business model to assist clients through a drive-thru. “That way we were able to stay open through the entire pandemic,” Patten said.
Over the past few months, the pantry began to slow as stimulus checks and extended unemployment checks helped many of their clientele. Patten said they were “some of the slowest months” they’ve had since moving to their Donald Drive location, which was expected.
“People weren’t needing as much help,” he said. “This month, we’re seeing those numbers going back up.”
The need is likely to stay up as increased unemployment benefits during the pandemic are rolled back, and a fourth round of stimulus checks are not anticipated despite online rumors.
Patten said the pantry’s numbers dropped in May to around 800 clients a month, which had been upwards of 1,300 a month during the pandemic.
While June’s numbers haven’t been calculated yet, and almost three weeks into July, he said the number of clients coming in “is feeling more like a pre-pandemic level.”
Pre-pandemic, though, they were seeing record numbers of people seeking help. In 2019, more than 12,000 clients received assistance, according to the pantry. In 2018, around 9,200 were served by the pantry.
Statewide, more than 1.5 million people, or one out of every eight, face hunger, and nearly 450,000 are children, or one out of every six, according to FeedingAmerica.org.