The Open Door Pantry juggles higher number of families in need as holidays approach

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As the holiday season approaches, people helping feed the hungry – including workers at a food pantry in Eagan – are busier than ever.

On average, The Open Door Pantry in Eagan serves anywhere from 300-400 households per day at their drive-thru sites, but last week, that number surpassed 600 households in one day.

Jason Vianna, executive director of The Open Door, says they haven’t seen numbers this high since the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of new clients is up 60% compared to this time last year.

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“What this consistent level of inflation has meant for people in our community is they’ve had to adjust to a really difficult new normal,” said Vianna. “What that means for a family is that when you go to the grocery store, instead of buying apples, instead of buying bananas and really good food for your family, you end up buying a lot more processed food, which can be a lot more hurtful for their health.”

Vianna says the pantry is busier than ever, which means longer wait times for the people it serves. Due to the demand, they’re not always able to help everyone in need.

“As inflation has gone up, specifically the cost of food, we’ve seen people come back in much higher numbers and again, during the holidays there’s always higher need. Budgets are having to go even further and they’re already so pinched,” Vianna said.

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Their goal is to never turn anyone away, but that means people are getting less food when they come to the pantry.

Ahead of the holiday season, workers are looking for additional help; whether that’s giving your time or your money, Vianna said it all helps. He added donations have been down for the last several years due to far-reaching inflation.

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“If you’re in a place to help, this is the time to help. Whether that’s giving your time, we always need volunteers. If it’s making a financial donation, or if it’s having a really thoughtful food drive, all of those little bitty efforts make a tremendous difference,” Vianna said.

You can work directly with people in need or behind the scenes. CLICK HERE to learn more about volunteer opportunities at The Open Door Pantry.