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Eats and Beats: People's Pantry Feeding and Growing Community

Justin Regan

Flagstaff is one of the latest cities to open a community food pantry. It’s a twist on traditional food banks, which generally provide hungry people with boxes of non-perishable foods. The Full Circle People’s Pantry of Flagstaff operates more like a grocery store, allowing customers to shop for donated food, including fresh produce, meat and milk. Organizers and customers alike say the pantry reduces the stigma of poverty and hunger, AND builds community. In the latest segment of our ongoing series Eats and Beats—stories about food and music—KNAU’s Justin Regan has this audio postcard.

My name is Sandy Berry and I’m the manager of people’s pantry here in Flagstaff, Arizona. We conceived this whole thing last December and got it on the road the second week in June.

I’ve been feeding people since I was 8. Family tradition. Never thought of it as charity work. My grandma, if someone on the block was sick she knew about it instantly and chicken noodle soup was on its way. My family they’re farmers and ranchers and dairymen. And I learned early on how to can food and dehydrate food, freeze food, share food so it’s just been part of our culture. When you’re raised on the land, you just naturally think of what you’re raised with which was food.

So when you’re dealing with food you’re talking about people’s lives and their extended families. So it’s very important to be part of that experience so they don’t feel ostracized. When you stay connected you care about your neighbor and that neighbor cares about that neighbor and it makes for a stronger community overall.

Hello my name is Sherry Jacob and I’ve lived in Flagstaff for 25 years. I used to work in a day program for developmentally disabled adults. Until my partner who I’ve been together with for 23 years got Alzheimer’s. I am now his full time caregiver. So I can’t work.

And the people’s pantry is wonderful because it gives us a weekly opportunity to come and shop. The foodbank is just once a month.

I make a lot of interesting stuff. But out of what I’m getting right now it’s mostly breakfast food. Some juice, and I got some wheat flour because lately I’ve been making empanadas.

Credit Justin Regan
Clients at the People's Pantry can shop for fresh meat, milk and eggs.

Empanadas are a Cuban or South American meat pie. I kinda got into them because they’re an easy thing to make for my husband. He doesn’t always feed himself, I have to feed him a lot. And a hand pie is something he can hold on to and feed himself.

Hello my name is Judy Marek and I’ve been living here in Flagstaff for about 22 years. And I am a volunteer here at the people’s pantry.

About three years ago I could have used this. I’m an hourly paid worker and my hours were cut because I was ill. And so having a place like this would have been just great to be able to come in and not spend my money on groceries and be able to spend my money on making my car payment. And this is just pay back I guess. I want to do it and I know it’s a need.

We thought we were going to feed 20 people a day and we fed 82 people today. There’s a need in there and getting that need out to everybody in Flagstaff who want it and getting people to step up and help. And I really think that’s a big part of who Flagstaff is. That we’re there. You just have to tell us. We may be oblivious and looking at the beautiful mountain and pretty skies. But tell us there’s a need and we’re going to step up and take care of our own.

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