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History of the Lord’s Cupboard Food Pantry

In 1974 the Lord’s Cupboard was established in a closet at First United Methodist Church. It was open to anyone in need of food assistance three times a week. Members of the church took the initiative to establish the program because they recognized the need for food assistance in the community. Over the next thirteen years, the Cupboard continued to grow in order to meet the growing need in the community. In early 1987, the Cupboard had grown to point in which the church felt it could no longer meet the demand by itself. In June of 1987, the decision was made to have the Lord’s Cupboard become a ministry of the Interfaith Forum (an ecumenical faith-based organization with representatives from several Fort Dodge churches).

Beginning in 1974, volunteers coordinated the program until 2008 when the first paid director was hired to help lead the organization. For decades, the Lord’s Cupboard was housed in the basement of the First United Methodist Church office building.

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In 2019, planning began to expand the Lord’s Cupboard in regard to the pantry’s space and hours of operation, and for developing a new business model for the organization. After numerous meetings, it was decided the ministry will become an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, will form a new board of directors, will renovate the current building, and move the pantry from the basement to the ground level. All of these changes were designed to improve access for people and families in need of food assistance.

A capital campaign was initiated in 2020 and successfully raised over $275,000. The renovation process of the building was completed in April of 2021 and the Lord’s Cupboard Community Food Pantry began its operations on the ground floor.  In May of 2021, the Lord’s Cupboard Community Food Pantry officially became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and is no longer under the operations of First United Methodist Church, but the Christian mission of the Cupboard remains the same. 

The Lord’s Cupboard has always been a source for providing emergency food assistance, but not a sustaining source of food. Clients have always been allowed a limited number of visits per year which have varied through the years. In the early years of the Lord’s Cupboard, it operated only on referrals from Upper Des Moines Opportunities, a community action agency in Fort Dodge that helps very low income people and families.  Today, the Lord’s Cupboard Community Pantry allows clients ten visits per year.

Since the 1990’s, the Lord’s Cupboard’s doors have been open to any person or family in need of food assistance, under the auspices of certain income eligibility guidelines. Family size determines how much food is given to each client or client family. A formula was developed with help from the Webster County Extension service as to what would constitute an adequate amount of food for one week for different sized families.  There is also a varying amount of free items available.

From its very beginnings, the Lord’s Cupboard has always relied on volunteers. In fact, volunteers have been and continue to be the “life blood” of the organization. Without their commitment to the food pantry ministry, the Cupboard would not be able to sustain itself.  It also depends heavily on both monetary and food donations from churches, organizations, businesses and the general public.  The Lord’s Cupboard has never received any governmental support from local, state or the federal government. It has truly been a Christian-based ministry supported by the kind-hearted.

The number of clients served has increased significantly since the start. In the last 6 months of 1987, 504 family units and a total of 1,375 people were served. In 2020, 5,850 households with a total of 10,800 people were served and approximately 45,000 lbs. of food items were purchased from the Iowa Food Bank. In addition, around $3,000-$5,000 of food is purchased per month from area stores to meet the growing need for food assistance.

This important ministry with its mission of reducing hunger in our community began with First United Methodist Church, and the church’s sustaining support over the past four and a half decades has been responsible for the Cupboard’s growth and evolution. Today, a new chapter with this important ministry has begun. The past and present support of First United Methodist Church and the Cupboard’s volunteers and supporters remains greatly appreciated.

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”   ~ Mother Teresa

As the Lord’s Cupboard moves forward, the need for more service, food and volunteers continues. We ask for continued prayers and donations of money and food so the Cupboard can continue its mission of helping our neighbors and friends who are hungry.

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