Haven Ministries Helps Food Pantry Customers Make the Most of their Food Decisions

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Haven Ministries is working with the University of Maryland Extension office in Centreville to help area residents, currently utilizing food pantries at Centreville United Methodist Church to make the most of their food decisions. They hope to expand the program in the future to their food pantry at Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church in Stevensville.

The program evolved after Centreville United Methodist Church (UMC) formed a Food Nutrition Education Committee (Food NET) which included its parishioners and interested volunteers from other churches in the community who wanted to focus on healthy eating. The team decided to partner with the University of Maryland Extension’s Food Supplement Nutrition Education Program. The program’s goal is to influence the health knowledge and behaviors of low-income Marylanders through nutrition education.

Ashley Guenard, Mid-Shore Project Leader and Educator of the Food Supplement Nutrition Education Program and a nutrition educator volunteered to come up with healthy recipes for every season which are shared with Centreville United Methodist Church’s daytime food pantry, as well as with Haven Ministries Food Pantry, offered every third Friday night of the month at Centreville UMC. The group hopes to expand the program to Haven Ministries Food Pantry at Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church in Stevensville in the future.

Photo: L to R – June Thomas, Ashley Guenard, Mid-Shore Project Leader and Educator of the Food Supplement Nutrition Education (FSNE) Program with the University of Maryland Extension office in Centreville; Peggy Fleisher, and Lorien MacAuley, Healthy Food Systems Evaluation Specialist for FSNE. 

At the Food Pantries at Centreville UMC, customers can taste recipes made from the fresh produce provided by the Maryland Food Bank, which provides nearly 6000 pounds of food a month for each location. Customers also get a bag of the ingredients to make the recipe and small kitchen gadgets to help in the preparation of the recipe with each monthly visit.

According to volunteer April Sharp, a member of Centreville UMC, who is helping with the program, “We have gotten people to try new foods they have never eaten before. We have also gotten feedback from our regular customers about how much they have enjoyed tasting and trying recipes at home and how they look forward to getting new recipes each month.”

She adds, “It’s a fresh way to present new food options for people in need.”

According to Krista Pettit, executive director of Haven Ministries, an average of 130 people on average participate at both food pantry locations.  The food pantries hope to expand their offerings in the coming months.

Sharon Lippert, a longtime volunteer at Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church Food Pantry, “We work as a team to make it happen. The participants get two week’s worth of groceries once a month. We have young families through the elderly living on Social Security who use the Food Pantry.  We enjoy getting to know the people who come and it really is a great ministry for us.”

Volunteers are critical to the operation of both Haven Ministries’ Food Pantries. According to Karen Bardwell, Volunteer Coordinator for Haven Ministries, “We utilize volunteers at both locations to sort and pack the produce from the Maryland Food Bank and to organize the food displayed. Volunteers also help customers get their groceries to their cars, as many are elderly or disabled.”

Volunteers can be individuals or organizations. In the past, volunteers have included middle and high school students, the Boy and Girl Scouts, and church youth groups. Anyone who would like to volunteer for either food pantry, can sign up online at Haven-minsitries.org under the tab “Other Ways We Help” – “Food Pantries” or call Volunteer Coordinator Karen Bardwell at 410-490-3173.  Food donations to Haven Ministries Food Pantries are also accepted at churches on Kent Island and at the Kent Island Library, as well as at Centreville United Methodist Church.

Haven Ministries Food Pantries are offered the third Friday of each month (except in November due to the Thanksgiving Programs) from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church (931 Love Point Road, Stevensville) for Kent Island and surrounding area residents and Centreville United Methodist Church (608 Church Hill Road, Centreville) for North County residents. The daytime Food Pantry at Centreville United Methodist Church is held on the first Wednesday of every month from 10 a.m. to 12 noon. For further information about the Food Pantries, call 410-739-4363 or visit Haven-minsitries.org Haven-minsitries.org.

Love shapes the ministry, love transforms people, and hope prevails at Haven Ministries.  Haven Ministries operates a seasonal Homeless Shelter located at the Kent Island United Methodist Church in Stevensville, a Resource Center at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Centreville, the Haven Ministries Food Pantries at Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church in Stevensville and Centreville United Methodist Church in Centreville, Our Daily Thread Thrift Store in Stevensville and Hope Warehouse in Queenstown.

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