Suburban poverty can go unseen by those not watching for it, but the impact is still felt by its community, said Melissa Nelson, Tri-City Food Pantry’s executive director.

Food assistance is needed everywhere to help those families make ends meet, Nelson said, and Sarpy County is no exception.

She remembers one pantry consumer who lived in a middle-class neighborhood, but due to “extenuating circumstances” her family hadn’t eaten meat in three weeks.

“We’re all just a few major bills away from needing help,” Nelson said.

The pantry, located in Papillion at 302 American Parkway in Papillion, serves families residing in La Vista, Papillion and Ralston, as well as families that opt into those school districts.

Families can come in as often as every 30 days, on Mondays and Thursdays from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11 to 3 p.m. It is closed Wednesdays and weekends.

In 2018, it served 2,665 adults and 1,795 children, according to pantry records. Pantry volunteer Shari Teixeira said she was surprised by how much it’s needed in the area when she first came to the pantry seven years ago.

“Sometimes when we’re working here, we’re filling bags and taking it out and filling as fast as we can because there’s so many people who come,” Teixeira said.

Nelson said the need is especially prevalent this time of year. From back-to-school expenses to holidays, she said August through December is when the pantry is busiest.

Typically, Nelson said its shelves are stocked to the ceiling with toiletries, sorted boxes of food and more. Right now, however, many of its shelves are nearly empty because the pantry has been so busy.

While the pantry’s inventory always takes a dip this time of year, Nelson said it is running especially low as local flooding this spring caused donor fatigue.

This month the pantry is in most need of the following: Chunky soup, cereal, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, canned fruit, muffin mix, baked beans, jelly, canned pasta sauce, stuffing potato sides, canned pasta, Kleenex and paper towels.

Those interested in donating should do so Mondays and Thursdays from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and evenings by appointment, as well as Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Call ahead to schedule a drop-off time for large donations.

Their most-needed list is updated monthly and published online at tricitypantry.org.

Monetary donations are also needed to continue providing vouchers for non-perishable food like milk. It also allows pantry staff to buy specific items missing from their inventory.

Another way to get involved is through volunteering, Nelson said. Volunteers can sort items, check in visitors and more. The pantry is also taking over Keipos’s garden, a nonprofit organization that recently folded.

Nelson said the pantry is holding a fall clean-up this week and will be planting produce in the spring. This will provide a steady supply of fresh produce and is a way for large groups to volunteer.

For more information, contact the pantry at tricitypantry@gmail.com or 402-552-7061.

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