Hiring Brown no longer makes Patten the youngest employee in the pantry.
“It’s actually unusual for us to have young people in the pantry. Until recently, I was the youngest in the organization and I’m 53, ”he said.
The busiest two months for the pantry were at the start of the pandemic in 2020, Patten said.
“It’s got great, super busy,” he said. “People were panicking because word got out because a lot of pantries were closing, so we were inundated with people from other parts of the area, like Cincinnati.”
Staff, board members and volunteers stepped up in the first months of the pandemic as Pantry evolved its business model to help customers through drive-thru. “That way we were able to stay open throughout the pandemic,” Patten said.
In recent months, the pantry has started to slow down as stimulus checks and extensive unemployment checks have helped many of their clientele. Patten said they were “among the slowest months” since moving to their Donald Drive location, which was expected.
“People didn’t need that much help,” he said. “This month we are seeing those numbers go up.”
The need is expected to continue as the increase in unemployment benefits during the pandemic is canceled, and a fourth round of stimulus checks are not planned despite rumors online.
Patten said the number of pantry customers dropped in May to around 800 customers per month, from more than 1,300 per month during the pandemic.
Although the figures for June have yet to be calculated and almost three weeks after the start of July, he said the number of customers entering “looked more like a pre-pandemic level.”
Before the pandemic, however, they were seeing record numbers of people seeking help. In 2019, more than 12,000 customers were helped, according to the pantry. In 2018, approximately 9,200 were served by the pantry.
Statewide, more than 1.5 million people, or one in eight, face hunger, and nearly 450,000 are children, or one in six, according to FeedingAmerica.org.