Food pantry looks to future with a 10th anniversary celebration and new leadership

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 8/16/19

A recent "Fresh Food Friday" made for a very busy morning last Friday, as scores of customers passed through the doors of the East Bay Food Pantry on Wood Street in Bristol, picking up delicious, …

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Food pantry looks to future with a 10th anniversary celebration and new leadership

Posted

A recent "Fresh Food Friday" made for a very busy morning last Friday, as scores of customers passed through the doors of the East Bay Food Pantry on Wood Street in Bristol, picking up delicious, farm-fresh produce. It's a far cry from the canned fare typically available at food banks, and local patrons were taking full advantage of the opportunity.

Fresh Food Friday was an initiative begun under the leadership of Nicki Tyska, a leadership that is in its last days, as she transitions back into work that will allow her to spend more time with her family.

"I had a goal, and I feel like I've accomplished it," Ms. Tyska said. "It's time for a change."

"It was more about engaging the community, and being from Bristol I had a strong outreach into the community. When I first started, a lot of people didn't know we were here," she said. "Now we have more volunteers, more donations, and we've increased our programs."

They now have 2 trucks, including a refrigerated van for transporting food and a box truck for the Thrift Shop, the proceeds from which funds much of their operating expenses. Their pantry volume has also doubled in size.

"When I first came on board there was not a lot of fresh produce," said Ms. Tyska. "I started purchasing corn from Usher's Farm, which the clients loved. Then we established a relationship with Mello's, the fresh food and vegetable wholesaler here in town. He looks out for stuff for us."

What's more, sales at the thrift store sales have grown tremendously in the past 3 years. "Jody is a rock star," Tyska said, of Jody Miller of Bristol, who runs that branch of the EBFP. "Donations have been steady, and thankfully the pink bag drop off did not materialize," said Ms. Tyska, of concerns that a town-sponsored clothing donation initiative might cause donations to their thrift store to diminish.

Karen Griffith-Dieterich, the previous Program Director, stepped into Ms. Tyska's shoes on August 1. They will work together until the Food Pantry's Uncorked event, later this month. With the Rhode Island Food Bank suffering from a drop in donations, Ms. Griffith-Dieterich has her work cut out for her.

"The food bank is basically our grocery store," said Ms. Tyska. "We purchase the majority of our food from them, some of it at 5 cents a pound. They are going to have to cut back the amount of food available for sale to us and other food pantries."

For her first order of business, Ms. Griffith-Dieterich is making moves to establish relationships with other potential sources, as she looks to the future. They've also talked about a couple of new initiatives, like extending food pantry hours into the evening, to make it more convenient for clients who work.

"We also want to do more outreach to make sure we are serving the food needs of the community," said Ms. Griffith-Dieterich. "I'm excited to take on this role to see what we can do, what really needs to be done."

Ms. Tyska's official last day will be Sunday, Aug. 25 at Uncorked, EBFP's only fundraiser of the year, which brings in a significant percentage of the funding the organization uses to run their programs. It's going to be a special, 10th anniversary event this year, held at Blithewold and featuring music by Michael DiMucci. Tickets at $75 each may be purchased at www.eastbayfoodpantry.org.



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