GREENVILLE — According to the American Community Survey (2018), the U.S. federal poverty threshold was $25,465 for a family of four (two children), and $17,308 for a single parent (one child). Out of the 51,900 total population of Darke County, more than 5,900 residents — 11.6 percent — are living on or just below the poverty line.
Although Darke County remains below the national poverty average of 13.1 percent, many of our neighbors, family and friends are wondering if their paychecks will stretch far enough to cover their daily living expenses and grocery bills from week to week. It is sometimes difficult to recognize that poverty exists within our communities. Families in need will try to “make do with what they have,” while often going without much-needed essentials for good nutrition. When faced with the prospect of paying the utility bills and rent or buying food and medicines, many will bear the hardship of eating less often, or sometimes, not at all.
The FISH Choice Pantry, located at 400 Markwith Avenue in Greenville, is an ecumenical nonprofit organization serving the emergency food needs of Darke County residents in times of hardship. Since September 2009, Kristy Cutarelli has been the pantry’s director. Even since her high school days, when volunteering for outreach missions, Cutarelli has always felt a call to help the residents of the Darke County community. From her previous work at DP&L, as daycare director, a referral nurse at Family Health, and as an family outreach coordinator at her church, Cutarelli has gained insight and experience helping and serving others in sorting through the challenges of an ever-changing economy and the unexpected difficulties that might cause food hardships for area families.
“After 2008, the economic recession really took a toll on many people, but especially on the ‘working poor,’ who did not meet the income requirement guidelines for food assistance, but whose cost of living expenses continued to rise as wages stayed the same. They need help, too.” Cutarelli said. “This is one of the great things about the FISH Choice Pantry. No verified resident of Darke County will ever be turned away who asks for food assistance.”
According to Cutarelli, the majority of the fresh, year-round produce FISH receives comes from Feeding America through Walmart. However, when in season, the pantry collects larger quantities of sweet corn, tomatoes, zucchini, apples, and sometimes, green beans, cucumbers and melons. Darke County produce growers often bring in an overflow of their harvest to the city in order to provide a home-grown garden variety for those who may not be able to afford it. Cargill, Inc. has even donated a refrigerator to FISH for the purpose of storing the produce until it can be distributed to residents who may not have access to fresh food.
Volunteers, also known as “servants,” are always a welcomed addition to the daily operations at the pantry, and help to sort, stock and restock the shelves, in addition to assisting clients with shopping and carrying groceries to their vehicles.
“We are especially in need of strong, willing hands to help do the heavy lifting of boxes and goods.” Cutarelli said, noting that many companies, like Walmart and others, donate much-needed non-perishable items to keep the shelves stocked at all times.
The pantry is open Monday (1 to 2 p.m.), Wednesday (10 to 11 a.m.), and Friday (4 to 5 p.m.). People needing food assistance need only show a photo ID and proof of Darke County residency. No income verification is required. Each household is eligible to receive food once every 28 days. As COVID-19 precautions are in place, all clients must remain in their vehicles, and when called in, one person per household may enter to “shop” in the pantry. Wearing a mask is strongly encouraged. Home delivery is available for shut-ins Monday through Friday.
“The people we live among… are undoubtedly some of the most giving and caring people you will ever know.” said Cutarelli. “FISH has been a part of Darke County for 53 years now (in December). That is a long time for any non-profit to survive, especially a ‘stand alone’ charity like ours. We have only survived by the grace of God and the support of this community. I am constantly amazed by the outpouring we receive continually from our neighbors that we are able to pass on to the county residents who need it.”
For more information, contact FISH Choice Pantry at 937-548-2000, or visit www.fishofdarke.org
Carol Marsh covers community interest stories and handles obituaries for Darke County Media. She can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 937-569-4314.