Our History of the FISH pantry
The Greene County FISH Pantry is a primarily volunteer, non-profit organization supported by the community, serving the emergency food needs of Greene County, Ohio, located in the county seat, Xenia. FISH is an acronym for “Friends In Service of Humanity.”
The pantry started in 1976, following the devastation of an F5 tornado that swept through the Xenia area. As families struggled to rebuild their lives, they needed food assistance. The pantry operated out of a local church, where it remained until 1993, when it moved to a county services building, where it was near the Job and Family services offices and bureau of motor vehicles.
A driving force for the pantry was longtime volunteer Peg Cannon, who gave over 35 years of service to the organization. After she retired in 2013, Bob Bosl took over as President with Dan Frevert as Operations manager. Together, Bosl and Frevert oversaw important growth and change for the pantry in their four years of leadership. Most notable, they implemented the use of computers for registering the clients who visited the pantry, providing a way to easily gather and track statistics. We now have almost ten years of data that allows us to see total people served, number of adults, children, seniors, disabled, and unhoused. We have embraced this data and used it for strategic planning and intentional growth.
In 2017, Gail Matson took over as president, and by the fall of 2018, the pantry had become a full choice pantry with the assistance of the Dayton Foodbank. The pantry purchased much-needed freezers and coolers to offer more choices of fresh produce, dairy products, and meat. The pantry is now open two days a week, Wednesday, and Thursday, plus three Saturdays a month. The pantry takes care of about 220 families a week or roughly 850 to 900 per month average.
Becoming a full choice pantry was an important move for the organization. By allowing clients to pick out their own food and providing significantly more produce and fresh foods, we are not only better serving the nutritional needs of our clients, but we are also actively demonstrating that they have value as individuals and human beings.
In March of 2019, after sixteen years in the County Services building, the county informed the pantry that our space was needed for the Bureau of Elections, and we would need to move to another location. The County offered an alternate space, which boasted three times the old space. We embraced this opportunity, because the pantry had outgrown that location and needed more space and amenities. However, the move was a challenge. The building needed a lot of work to make it food safe, and of course the pandemic added to the challenges. We received a Community Block Grant to help with the project, which supported cleaning the building and replacing all doors and windows. The community in general also turned out to support us with the donations of a walk-in refrigerator/freezer, air conditioning units and the paying for the parking lot to be paved. In 2021, we crossed 1,000,000 pounds of food served in a year, providing almost 1,500,000 pounds to the community.
While this new space has allowed us to continue to grow our services, more space also brings more ongoing expenses, including utilities and ground maintenance (we are looking to purchase our own mower, for example, instead of relying on a service). And while most of the remodeling was done before we moved into the building in May of 2021, there were still a few projects that needed to be completed, such as updating the floor in the public area of the pantry.
Other complimentary services have also grown alongside the pantry. Part of our organization’s strength is our partnerships with so many other organizations. Through partner organizations, we also provide books, diapers, and feminine hygiene products. We are the beneficiary of the local library’s Food for Fines campaign.