Carthage food pantry shutters its doors

HANCOCK COUNTY — The Blue River Community Harvest Food Pantry in Carthage recently closed its doors after a months-long struggling to find an affordable pantry space after its building was sold.

Officials with the Hancock County Food Pantry and the Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen are prepared for any extra mouths to feed due to the closure, and the local pantry also will benefit from some of Blue River’s assets, including equipment and previously donated food items.

The Carthage pantry, located about six miles east of Charlottesville, sent a letter to its clients last week announcing the closure and directing them to various area agencies, said Jennifer Cochrane, the board of directors vice chair. There are about half a dozen other agencies that provide food assistance or other types of assistance to Rush County residents, and she is hopeful they’ll be able to fill the gaps, she said.

The announcement that the food pantry was closing came just one month after pantry officials warned clients that the Gleaners Food Bank mobile food pantry would no longer travel to Carthage.

Tom Ferguson, president of the Hancock County Food Pantry, said the Carthage Pantry, which served more than 300 families in 2015, will transfer some of its equipment to the local facility, 741 S. State St. in Greenfield, in the coming weeks. Ferguson doesn’t expect an increase in clients locally because the pantry serves only Hancock County residents, but the loss of an agency addressing food insecurity in the region still stings, he said.

“I’m sorry to see them go,” Ferguson said. “There was a significant need in that area of Rush County, and they certainly served that need. This will leave a void.”

The local soup kitchen, 202 E. Main St., Greenfield, welcomes any residents in need, including those from surrounding counties, said director Jill Ebbert, who encouraged families left in need from the pantry’s closure to visit the soup kitchen.

Greenfield’s soup kitchen served 32,000 meals last year; Ebbert said the soup kitchen is well-prepared for any hungry people who might walk through the door.

Because the pantry did not receive any government funding, its operations were completely based on donations, Cochrane said. The struggle to find an affordable location big enough to house pallets of canned food has been an ongoing struggle since last year, when the pantry’s original building was sold, she said.

“We just had no place to be,” she said. “We said, ‘Maybe it’s somebody else’s turn to do this.'”

The pantry moved to the former Tweedy Lumber yard in Carthage last year, but Cochrane said the location didn’t work out for serving clients.

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Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.