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Body and Soul

The Loveland LIFE Food Pantry—Providing Nourishment for the Whole of Our Community

Article by Stephanie Meinberg

Photography by Stephanie Meinberg

Originally published in Loveland Lifestyle

“There are so many people who don’t even know there’s a pantry in Loveland. It’s a big deal.” And not only does our community have a pantry, it’s been around since the 80s, becoming an official, independent nonprofit in 2003. 

“It started out serving 45 clients,” says Linda Bergholz, executive director of the Loveland LIFE Food Pantry. “Now we serve between 400 and 500 a month … approximately 250 families.” Linda’s been at the helm for the past 6 years—before that, a volunteer for nearly a decade when the Pantry operated out of Prince of Peace Church. Last September, the Pantry moved to its new, dedicated location in Shoppers Haven—a shift that enabled them to take things to the next level. 

“Our clients can now shop for themselves, instead of us pre-shopping for them—that’s impersonal, there’s no dignity,” Linda explains. “We wanted to be a ‘choice’ pantry, that was critically important. Of all the things people do in their lives, they should be able to choose their own food.”

The Pantry now resembles a small-scale grocery, complete with brands each client knows and loves, stocked with everything from produce and dairy to staples and toiletries. And unlike other similar organizations—which can only serve clients once monthly—the Pantry made another move. “Most pantries are considered emergency food sources, but that’s not what it is for many of our families—our families depend on this. So we changed. Now they can come in every 2 weeks, which enables them to get a lot more fresh items … and they don’t have to worry about making them last or having room to store them.”   

These regular clients are required to be within the 45140 area code, but the Pantry also offers a one-time service for anyone, no matter where live. “If you come here and say, ‘I don’t have any food,’ we’re going to feed you.”   

“That should be our logo, ‘We Do Food,’” Linda laughs. “The biggest thing we do is food.” But that’s not all the Pantry does—not by a long shot. They also offer locals financial assistance, a critical source of help during the pandemic when many were out of a job—some of whom are still struggling with returning to the workforce but with rent and utilities due. 

The Pantry also hosts numerous events and programs throughout the year, including the Student LIFE Shop (where kids can get backpacks and back-to-school supplies), Thanksgiving baskets, Christmas/Hanukkah meal bags, a Holiday Giving Shop and more.

“We try to look at the whole person and say, ‘what does this person need?’ Sometimes our clients just need to talk—they just need somebody to listen.”

And the source of all these goods and support? Donated, 100 percent. “We rely on donations and grants,” Linda says. “We have no federal funding, no state funding. We get ‘local funding’ only in that this community is the very best when it comes to donating. It’s truly, truly this community that does the work.”     

Keeping the Pantry Stocked

No matter the season or conditions, there are a few vital items that are always in short supply. 

1. Coffee & Spices. Two things some might take for granted—the luxury of being able to brew a hot cup of java in the morning, or adding that just-right seasoning to brighten a basic meal. “If clients only have ‘X’ amount of money, it’s probably not going to go toward coffee. Think about it—I mean, coffee is expensive. Same with spices.” 

2. Shelf-stable Dairy. This one hits both the young and old. Individual boxes of shelf-stable milk are items that, if available, get added to the weekend bags the Pantry prepares for kids—it’s a single-serving staple. The same is true for single-serve bottles of Ensure or Boost—a quick and easy source of nutrition and calories for adults.

3. Gift Cards. “If people don’t know what to buy, they can just buy us a gift card—then we go get what we need the most,” Linda offers, referencing both generic (Visa, MC) and retail-specific GCs (like Kroger or Meijer). Because the Pantry partners with a number of local organizations, they’re able to purchase things at a reduced price. “Instead of spending $2 for a can of soup, I can get a whole case for $2.50. It works out beautifully.”

4. Volunteers. It’s no surprise that an extra hand, an extra hour can make all the difference for both the Pantry and the numerous families it serves. Goods and donations are always arriving—and although the need for more of both is ongoing, the Pantry also depends on volunteers to help sort, package, prep and shelve everything. Add in all the events and extras that this nonprofit offers? It equals a perpetual need for helping hands.  

5. Incremental Sponsors. Above all the rest, this is what’s needed most—and ironically, it’s among the easiest. “It doesn’t have to be a big amount—we’re talking $5 a month,” Linda says. “A weekend bag for a kid is $5, that’s all. And if it’s a reoccurring monthly donation? That helps us immensely because we know that money is coming in, we can count on it. If 100 people did that, just $5 a month … that’s huge.” Trading one day’s worth of Starbucks to help families in need—help change their lives—that’s exactly the kind of impact the Pantry hopes to inspire. | 541 Loveland Madeira Rd | 513.583.8222