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Stuff the Bus: Omaha food pantry works to meet needs to feed community

The St. Vincent de Paul food pantry is closed to its clients today, but there's still a lot of work going on.
Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 8:15 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The St. Vincent de Paul food pantry is closed to its clients today, but there is still a lot of work going on as volunteers prepare for the growing number of people who count on the pantry to help feed their families.

The St. Vincent de Paul food panty looks like a grocery store after hours but it’s volunteers who are stocking the shelves with donated food.

“Our donations, they keep us open and the people that come through you only have to work here once and have somebody in tears because you were able to give them some diapers or some meat or canned vegetables or fruit then you’re hooked and that’s kind of why I’ve been here so long,” said Karen Langan.

The pantry even grows its own produce to donate to families in need.

“It consists of all sorts of greens, spinach we grow it every spring then we deliver it here to the pantry.”

Karen Langan is a volunteer at the pantry and has been for 30 years.

“There’s such a food shortage and they come through their pantries are empty, their kids are with them and the kids come through with them and they’re in line and they’re like ‘oh my god can I eat this’ or that they’re hungry right now and we try to give them something they can eat on as they come through the line,” said Langan.

Karen says she has never seen so many families struggle to make ends meet.

“I mean they will come through other times and say ‘oh this is great’ but they’re just hungrier or more grateful I mean our numbers are higher than they have been in the past.”

The need for food for some families grows greater now that school is out.

“School got out Friday and we heard it yesterday, oh my gosh thank you I take care of my grandkids during the summer my kids are all home during the summer so the need is greater during the summer because kids are home and kids are hungry.”

The St. Vincent de Paul food pantry and 6 News are helping fill that need.

“We are doing three times as much business as we did a year and a half ago, which was double what we used to do.

Marty Smith is the executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Omaha, he tells 6 News they are on track to help 40,000 people this year.

“It’s more people who are starting to understand that the pantry can help with the rest of their budget, if they can get some of the basics at the pantry they can maybe fix the car, get the kids to a summer camp,” said Smith.

Food donations are coming in but there are still some empty shelves in the pantry. There are also families in need of non-food items.

“Diapers and baby food those are things they’re really grateful for toilet paper is a biggie, paper towels but then also deodorant, shampoo, bar soap.”

All the food that comes out of this pantry helps many families keep food on the table through the end of the month.

“We claim to be a supplement, we know we aren’t going to feed that family for two weeks on what we give them but with what we have and what we get from wow and all the places we fill a large grocery cart, and it’s full when they go out the door.”

About a dozen volunteers are working to stock the pantry, with families dealing with inflation on top of the pandemic, the work here is very important.

“Even before COVID the need was always there, there are people hungry in Omaha and there are people who are very willing to help feed those people.”

6 News will be collecting items on June 2nd from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. for our Stuff the Bus food drive at two locations, the Methodist Women’s hospital on 192nd and Dodge and the Methodist hospital near 87th and Dodge.

Special needs this year include rice, beans, canned vegetables, and diapers.

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