Sparta Community Food Pantry offers holiday meals to less fortunate

SPARTA. The pantry is open year-round staffed by volunteers.

Sparta /
| 19 Dec 2022 | 01:17

When people walked into the Sparta Community Food Pantry on Dec. 14, they heard thanks, blessings, even disbelief.

Each holiday season, the pantry offers poultry, lasagnas, produce, milk, eggs, butter, canned goods and many more food items as well as some toys to those less fortunate in the community.

People were invited to pick out their holiday supplies, and the pantry offered delivery to those who are sick or can’t get around.

A blond woman entering the pantry who asked to remain anonymous couldn’t believe that the event was free. She profusely and repeatedly thanked all of the volunteers.

This is just unbelievable,” she said. “You are helping us so much.”

Peggy Behnke, one of the volunteers who runs Harvest House in Sussex, brought donations and help.

“This pantry is such an amazing organization,” she said. “The volunteers do so much and it means so much to the community.”

Valerie Macchino, the pantry’s director, pours her heart and soul into the initiative year-round and particularly leading into Christmas. Other board members are Pat Convey, Karen Ciappio, Josh Brubacker, Elizabeth Siracuse, Marjy Murphy and Edward Prol.

“The pantry has been around for 35 years, and we started doing the Christmas dinners about 18 years ago,” Macchino said. “This is our second year at our new and much larger location, so we’re very pleased to be able to serve more members of the community. We’re so very grateful to everyone who donated to this initiative.”

The Sparta Ecumenical Food Pantry changed its name to the Sparta Community Food Pantry two years ago and moved to 99 Demarest Road near the Route 15 ShopRite Plaza.

“I love this place and just think the world of the mission and all the pantry does,” Brubacker said as he bustled though the crowd to get more supplies.

Sandy Suanson of Lafayette comes to the pantry once a week to get food for herself and her husband.

“We’re retired farmers and we just can’t make ends meet, so this pantry means so much to us not just at Christmas but every week,” she said.

Outside the pantry, Rose and Ryan Dunn were representing the Guinness Dunn Foundation that they founded in 2020. The day after their beloved dog, Guinness, passed away, they realized they had to do something and came up with a lasting memorial to him.

“We wanted to carry on his legacy of love, kindness and compassion,” Rose Dunn said.

The couple travels with a large van to various locations throughout New Jersey to provide families with pet supplies.

“Those less fortunate who have pets will often refuse shelter if their pets can’t go with them,” Ryan Dunn said. “We are committed to keeping pets and their families together during difficult times by providing financial assistance for emergency veterinary bills, pet food assistance and mobility carts for disabled dogs.”

Macchino said the pantry is grateful that they were on hand to help with the holiday effort.

“Now more than ever, the Sparta Community Food Pantry needs your support,” she said. “Our holiday dinner initiative is just one of many ways we give back to the community. We have stepped up our efforts to help and provide food to more people in this challenging and demanding environment.

“We are very proud of our efforts this year as this would not have been possible without the tireless help of our numerous volunteers. The Sparta Community Food Pantry has always been run by 100 percent volunteers and operates purely on donations.”

All of the funds collected are used to provide food and essentials for those in need.

“We can always use donations and are so thankful for those who donate and volunteer,” she added. “We also want people who are struggling to not hesitate to reach out for help: that’s why we’re here.”

For information about the pantry or to donate, call 862-266-0563, e-mail or go online to
“We’re retired farmers and we just can’t make ends meet, so this pantry means so much to us not just at Christmas but every week.” - Sandy Suanson of Lafayette