Fresh Start for Buffalo Food Pantry

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

BUFFALO, N.Y. — An updated food pantry was launched this fall in Western New York — a rejuvenated version of a decades-old ministry, with a new location and format.

St. Patrick Pantry moved from the friary into a renovated garage on the property of St. Patrick Friary on Seymour Street. This client-choice food center means that families can select their own groceries. Opened on Oct. 22, the pantry was blessed and dedicated by Francis Pompei, OFM, on Nov. 16.

The idea of client-choice came from the local food bank, said Monica Kwiatkowski, OFS, the pantry’s director and also a retired nurse. “We gathered ideas for client-choice from The Bridge ministry at St. Bonaventure Parish in Allegany, N.Y.,” Francis noted.

“Our clients are now able to pick the foods they like. Hopefully, this will help their self-esteem, knowing that they now have a choice,” Kwiatkowski said. Because clients select only the groceries that they like, less food is discarded, she added.

“We are here to share with our neighbors what the Lord gave us,” said Francis, a member of the HNP Ministry of the Word. “We’re here to develop relationships with our brothers and sisters in the community.”

Blessing of Pantry
The dedication and blessing began with a Mass celebrated by Francis at St. Patrick Friary Chapel. Kwiatkowski was also honored for her 18 years of service. She is now training longtime volunteer Jim Duziak to assume more of the work.

The dedication recognized the pantry benefactors — provided by the estate of Dr. William Mahon of Oswego, N.Y., Francis’ long-time friend who died earlier this year. Mahon’s widow and son attended the dedication, which was followed by a luncheon. The Mahons also funded the garage renovation, and a photo of Mr. Mahon was placed on the pantry’s wall in appreciation of his gift.

Services of Program 
“Francis has been very helpful and supportive,” said Kwiatkowski, adding that she admires the work of other friars in Buffalo, including Timothy Dauenhauer, OFM. She also spoke fondly of the late Maurice Swartout, OFM, who was “like joy all over.”

The friars of St. Patrick have been helping to feed the needy of their community for decades, she pointed out. “Since the 1920s, we have had a local food distribution and feeding program of one type or another.” She worked at the pantry with Ronald Pecci, OFM, when he was stationed in Buffalo.

The pantry, open on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The Food Bank of Western New York, as well as other sources, provides the food.

At Christmas time, every client gets “a special bag” of groceries, Kwiatkowski said. The team of 15 volunteers, mostly retirees, runs a holiday toy program in conjunction with Timothy who buys toys year-round.

The Buffalo pantry is one of many food programs offered by the Province throughout the East Coast. These include the historic St. Francis Breadline in New York City, the St. Francis Inn soup kitchen in Philadelphia, the Franciscan Food Center in Boston, sandwich programs in Hartford, Conn., and Providence, R.I., and other pantries at parishes and community centers.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.