Donating two pigs to Hilltop Neighborhood House Food Pantry Monday afternoon marked the first time Benjamin F. Edwards & Co. has worked with the food pantry to provide for those in need. Food insecurity has risen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, making this service more crucial than ever.
“We have been able to feed at least 178 people every week,” said Lisa Pavlopoulos, Director of Community Resources and Finance at Hilltop Neighborhood House. “When COVID-19 first hit, we were up 300 percent. We were all shocked there were that many people.”
With the rise in food insecurity, Cliff Bryan, Managing Director of Investments at Benjamin F. Edwards & Co., and his wife Laura decided they wanted to do something about it. Bryan was not sure what the food pantry was looking for, but Pavlopoulos said that the two pigs he brought were a wonderful addition to their food supplies.
“We decided to go out and buy two hogs, having no idea what that meant for them,” Bryan said. “It was a learning experience for us. I thought I was going to buy them from a fair for the 4-H, but I wasn’t lucky enough to get any of them. I contacted a meat processor, and he acquired the two pigs for me. He butchered the pigs and packed the meat in a way that was most easy to give away.”
While the food pantry is happy to provide people with food, they try to keep it hyper-local. They will serve anyone who comes to the building on their first visit. If visitors are not Valparaiso residents, the food pantry will give them a list of other pantries in the area.
“We serve anybody who shows up with a Valparaiso address,” Pavlopoulos said. “They are allowed to come once a month and we give them enough food to feed a family of four three times a day for five days. We also give them things like laundry detergent, diapers, and other items.”
Board member of Hilltop Neighborhood House Kaye Frataccia said that the food pantry is particularly dedicated to ensuring that a supply of food is given to the food insecure while living in this food desert. She explained that a food desert is a location that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food, which poses a major obstacle to those who are impoverished or do not have access to transportation.
“We have a lot of people in food deserts who have no transportation,” Frataccia said. “Last year we had a fundraiser to get the 64 van, which we take to those food deserts. The name was based on Ruby Paynes’ book which talks about the 64 hours from 3 p.m. on Friday until Monday morning when kids go back to school, which is when they might be at home and have no food. This is a way to get food to the people who can’t get to us.”
Over the years, the food pantry has developed a map of every food-insecure individual in the area. They know their clients well and keep track of any dietary restrictions they may have so they can acquire and set aside food accordingly.
“We do whatever we can to help this neighborhood be self-sufficient and let the residents know they are valued and respected,” Pavlopoulos said.
The food pantry is open every Thursday from 9:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. and accepts donations every Thursday from 8:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. They also have an after-hours pantry in front of the building that is available for the public to drop-off or pick up donations at any time.
At this time, specific items the food pantry is asking for includes peanut butter, toilet paper, pasta, pasta sauce, tuna, and hearty soups.
To learn more, visit https://www.hilltophouse.org/hilltop-food-pantry/.
Approval Code: 2020-2093