Our Savior’s Lutheran Church has expanded and reconfigured its food pantry to create more space for food storage and assembly of food packages.
The space devoted to the pantry is now one-third larger, according to Loren Knauss, volunteer at the pantry and co-founder of the Story Street Pantry.
With the approval of the church council, led by President Roger Carlon, a conference room was converted into a storage and assembly room, and a room across the hall was turned into a conference room, said Josh Weesner, director of the Our Savior’s pantry and co-founder of Story Street Pantry. He does the ordering for both pantries.
“The expansion of the space was done to streamline the work at Our Savior’s Lutheran Food Pantry, but it also allows Our Savior’s, which is a partner with Story Street Pantry, to become the distribution center for the Story Street Pantry mobile pantry services,” Knauss said. “The new Our Savior’s food assembly room will allow volunteers (including some from Emanuel Lutheran Church) to assemble delivery orders for more than 100 households without leaving the room to restock, saving much-needed time. Before, we had to go to multiple places (to get food for orders), and I was actually assembling in the hall.”
Food even had to be carried over from a double garage the church owns across the street, he said. It is still used for long-term storage of nonperishables.
The reconfigured storage area will now be used to restock the mobile food pantry and reduce restocking time for volunteers, Knauss said. That, in turn, will allow Story Street Pantry to further expand its mobile pantry services, which he manages.
“Our Savior’s Lutheran Food Pantry taking on the responsibility of being the distribution center for Story Street Pantry allowed us to partner in August 2021 with five low-income apartment complexes in Council Bluffs to deliver USDA food items to seniors and people living with disabilities,” he said. “We are in discussions to add more locations in the coming months.”
Pantry volunteers deliver food orders to residents at Regal Towers and Dudley Court in Council Bluffs once a week and recently added delivery services at Maple Park Apartments, Plainsview and North Tower, Knauss said.
Story Street already partners with Carter Lake Community Presbyterian Pantry at 3030 N. Ninth St. in Carter Lake, Riverside Food Pantry at 603 Pioneer Ave. in Oakland and San Andres Food Pantry at 4440 S. 25th St. in Omaha. It provides mobile pantry services from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the first Monday of each month at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 517, S. 32nd St., Council Bluffs; and from 1 to 3 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month at Friendship Pantry, 2616 Ave. A, Council Bluffs.
“The expansion is part of the overall mission of Our Savior’s Lutheran Food Pantry and Story Street Pantry to increase pantry services in the Council Bluffs/Omaha metro area,” Knauss said. “The expansion and reconfiguration of the space will help to decrease the time volunteers spend assembling food orders (and) restocking, which gives us more time to provide direct services.”
Knauss warned the Rev. Celeste Waymire, pastor at Our Savior’s, that she might return from vacation sometime and find boxes of food in her office — but she assured him she would keep it locked.
Story Street Pantry was founded in January 2020 by Knauss and Weesner. The organization is incorporated in Iowa and Nebraska and received 501c(3) nonprofit status in September 2020. Story Street started the Carter Lake and San Andres pantries and formed partnerships with the others.
Story Street receives USDA Farmers to Families food boxes monthly and also receives food from Food Bank for the Heartland, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and local businesses and residents. The group also purchases food using grants and monetary donations from the public.
Story Street first deployed the mobile pantry on July 5, 2021 and has used it regularly since July.