XENIA — The Xenia FISH Food Pantry has specific times available for military members, veterans, and their families to come visit its facility. From 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., those individuals can come to the Cincinnati Avenue facility on the second and fourth Saturday of each month.
Xenia FISH Food Pantry Executive Director Gail Matson said that veterans have reasons for why they do not like to visit the pantry.
“Some do not like to be in crowds and/or around a lot of noise,” Matson said. “If a less active and hectic environment existed, more veterans would come.”
Personal pride is another big roadblock.
“Veterans do not want to take a handout,” Matson said. “They have a lot of pride for themselves. They have fought for the country.”
About 40 to 50 veterans visit the pantry per month.
Besides creating specific times for military members and veterans to visit its facility, Matson said other avenues are being explored to get those individuals to come to the pantry or assist in their lives.
“We are trying to start reaching out to the community. I want to be able to reach out and let them know we’re available,” she said. “We only deal with food. If they need other things, we refer them to the correct places.”
Besides food items, the organization provides other items that are donated to the facility. Breads, desserts, hygiene items, lasagna, rice, dog food, cat food, baby food, diapers, and fresh vegetables are some of the items the pantry provides to its customers. Customers have access to ten pounds of meat as well.
“If customers walk out with a full cart, there is probably 150 pounds of food in the cart,” Matson said.
The pantry does have limits on its available items, but Matson said that everything is reasonable.
People are allowed to visit the pantry every two weeks.
“In-between two week visits, if they say they’re out of food, we will give them food,” Matson said. “We call them ‘emergency bags.’”
Greene County residents are the focus of the work that the Xenia FISH Food Pantry does, but if someone from outside the county comes to the pantry, the pantry will serve them and refer them to other places for assistance.
The pantry also tries to adequately deal with any food allergies that its customers may have.
“We get some gluten-free items in. We try to stock Ensure for older people who cannot come in,” Matson said. “It is hard to get ahold of everyone’s different allergies.”
Tthe effects of COVID-19 on the pantry it have been hit or miss.
“During COVID, we never missed one week,” Matson said. “Instead of allowing people to come in and shop, we packed boxes. It was a drive-thru at the old facility and then we moved it to the new facility.”
Moving from Ledbetter Road to Cincinnati Avenue has provided the pantry with a bigger space to store more items.
Matson has strong feelings about the work the pantry does for military members, veterans, their families, and the general public.
“You have to love what you do. Some days, people will say how they appreciate what we do and it is nice to have food,” Matson said. “We appreciate those comments. Seeing people in need and being able to help them means the world to me.”
She added, “We want people to feel comfortable coming in. We want to help them in a very relaxing atmosphere.”
Xenia FISH Food Pantry has been in operation since 1976. Its current facility is located at 774 Cincinnati Avenue. For more information, call 937-372-8441.