Rosemary, a client at the St. Monica Food Pantry in Barre, came in for a bag of groceries for herself and one for her sister on a chilly fall morning. “It helps my budget” to get the free food, she said. “And I think they are nice people [here] that help others.”

Two volunteers staff the food pantry on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon, and two staff it the same hours on Friday. One of the volunteers is Marie Tomberg, the coordinator.

“We don’t turn people away,” she said, even though clients from throughout the local area are encouraged to limit what they take from the shelves unless they have a more severe need.

The food pantry began years ago with “very minimal food” to distribute, she said, but it has grown over the years thanks to the generosity of parishioners, local organizations and vendors.

The food pantry recently received a $3,000 grant from the Vermont Catholic Community Foundation. “That means we can feed more people, especially people with young children,” said Tomberg, who volunteers because she “wanted to do something” for her church.

It makes her feel good to help others, and she knows some people come to the pantry to get a bag a food and to have an opportunity to socialize.

In 2021 — the latest year for which statistics were available — the St. Monica Food Pantry had 390 visits from clients and served 1,337 individuals.

St. Monica parishioner Frank Bellear, regularly brings non-perishables to the food pantry in a section of the church sacristy that has its own door to the outside. “It makes me feel good” to give, he said.

During the growing season some parishioners donate fresh foods from their farms or gardens.

Other parishioners contribute money Tomberg uses to buy needed staples.

“We have very giving parishioners,” she said.

—Originally published in the Winter 2023 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.