Prineville’s St. Vincent de Paul food pantry, the largest in Crook County, closed last week due to a lack of operational funds, volunteers and grant awards.

The nonprofit closed its thrift shop last fall and plans to move out of its Court Street location by the end of September.

Linda Holes, a volunteer coordinator for the local St. Vincent de Paul, said a mix of factors has led to the operation being shut down. The last eight grant applications have been denied, and the organization no longer profits from its clothes recycling program, which is also set to end in September, she said.

Meanwhile, the organization had trouble keeping up with mounting expenses, such as rent, utilities, gas for its trucks, insurance and wages for a full-time employee and three part-time employees.

“We will be gone by the end of the month,” Holes said.

However, Holes remains optimistic the closure will be short term. Plans are being made to fundraise and find a property to own in Prineville for a new food pantry.

“Our goal is to be up and running the food bank again in January,” Holes said. “Everyone is trying to see how we can make it work.”

The organization is working with the Central Oregon nonprofit service provider NeighborImpact to find a way to reopen a food pantry, Holes said.

NeighborImpact, part of the Oregon Food Bank network, distributes food to 48 agencies in Central Oregon, including to St. Vincent de Paul and the First Baptist Church in Prineville.

Carly Sanders, food program manager for the NeighborImpact, said the program is training more volunteers and sending more food to the First Baptist Church pantry.

The church’s pantry will now be open every Thursday rather than the last two Mondays of the month, Sanders said.

“We are helping with recruitment of volunteers and we are now delivering food on a weekly basis,” Sanders said.

NeighborImpact is also helping St. Vincent de Paul find a property that could be donated for a food pantry, or find a local nonprofit that would be interested in adding food distribution to its services.

“We are going to be able to help St. Vincent de Paul find a space they need, and another organization may rise up to add food distribution as well,” Sanders said. “We are pretty optimistic the Prineville community will find solutions.”

Overall, Sanders said, food pantries across Central Oregon are reporting steady finances, and she is confident that the Prineville food pantry will rebound soon.

“What we know is what our partners’ agencies communicate with us, and right now food distribution is still really strong and high,” she said.

The St. Vincent de Paul pantry in Prineville, which opened in 1985, receives a majority of its food from NeighborImpact and the rest from local grocery stores.

In 2017, the organization provided nearly 223,000 pounds of food to 9,646 people in the region.

But the consistent food donations have not been enough to offset the operational costs of running the food pantry, Holes said.

Volunteers have spent the past week clearing out their leased space on Court Street. They even had to tear down a building on the property they built for storage.

Until a new location is found, those in need of food will rely on the First Baptist Church each Thursday. Prineville’s Eastside Church is also planning to provide brown bag meals about twice a month.

“We are going to do our best with the food supply we have right now and the extended distribution time and dates to still meet the needs,” Sanders said. “As the weeks go by, we will continue to evaluate what folks need.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com

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