COLUMBUS (WCMH) – One local food pantry is celebrating 50 years of operation and service in central Ohio.

Broad Street Presbyterian Church first opened its food pantry nearly 50 years ago.

“In 1971 when we opened our doors, the pantry was in a little closet when we opened our church,” said Kathy Kelly-Long, director of the Broad Street Food Pantry.

She said in the 1970s, they served about 2,000 families a year, distributing a loaf of bread, peanut butter, and other small items.

“Now, we’re serving roughly 2,000 every month,” Kelly-Long said.

One of the perks in the last few years is they have healthier options to give people, especially as food insecurity has been prioritized all over the world.

Before the pandemic, the pantry served 22,000 people in 2019. When the pandemic started, that all changed. Sometimes, it would double and even triple in number. She remembers also struggling to get people to help, especially with the COVID-19 health guidelines in place at the time.

Broad Street Presbyterian Church food pantry

“Many of our volunteers were in their 60s and 70s and they were the group that was most at risk,” Kelly-Long said. “We did struggle for a while.”

Now, as more people are getting vaccinated, things have slowly been returning to some normalcy. The pantry is also seeing a recent decrease in the need for food assistance.

“We believe it’s because of all the support provided by the American Rescue Plan,” Kelly-Long said.

The pantry’s volunteers and directors are hopeful the numbers will stay this way as it’s been a difficult time for all.

“This month, it’s 28 (people served) a day,” Kelly-Long said.

On Thursday, the pantry will have a banner hanging up in its doorway to celebrate the 50th anniversary.

If anyone is in need of food assistance, they can check out the pantry’s website.