File photo of SVdP’s Atkinson Food Room, which will close Dec. 31 to make way for expanded services for the local unsheltered population.

St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County (SVdP) will cease food-pantry box distribution from its Atkinson Food Room at the Lindholm Service Center, 456 Hwy. 99N in Eugene, effective Dec. 31, 2022.

While this closure might come as a shock to some, especially so close to the winter holidays, it actually means that SVdP will be able to better serve the local unsheltered population.

In order to make more efficient use of limited space and resources, SVdP will repurpose the current food room to allow for increased production, cold storage and delivery of prepared meals to serve the growing numbers of local people experiencing homelessness. Another planned use for part of the space is as expanded seating for unsheltered individuals seeking daytime respite at the adjacent Eugene Service Station.

Over the past year, SVdP has served more than 300,000 meals through a variety of day- and night-shelter programs serving local individuals and families. These include the Eugene Service Station; the Night Shelter Annex, serving families experiencing homelessness; the Dawn to Dawn congregate overnight tent shelter for individual adults; the SVdP-managed 410 Garfield Safe Sleep site; and Egan Warming Centers, which give the unsheltered a safe indoor place to sleep and warm meals during periods of life-threatening cold.

SVdP leadership carefully considered a variety of factors before making the decision to close the Atkinson Food Room, which is currently one of 31 FOOD For Lane County (FFLC) pantries. Because of widespread and ongoing supply-chain disruptions, paired with systemic changes to the larger emergency food network, recently SVdP’s food room has had only enough supply to allow for food-box distribution two days a week.

With an abundance of other food-pantry services across Lane County, including many within a 2-mile radius of the Atkinson Food Room, SVdP determined that a redirecting of pantry supplies to those locations would serve the people seeking that assistance just as effectively. And as the Dec. 31 closure approaches, SVdP will proactively make resources available to help guide community members toward other food pantries near them.

One of SVdP’s overarching goals is to fill gaps in available community services. Many other food pantries already fill that demand locally, and yet the need for shelter programs and associated services for the unsheltered continues to escalate. Ultimately, SVdP determined that this pivot in operations would best allocate resources toward making the greatest impact in serving the greater good.

Fortunately, FOOD For Lane County will remain one of SVdP’s indispensable community partners. FFLC has graciously confirmed that it will continue to supply SVdP with food for the preparation of nourishing meals to help sustain those seeking emergency services. SVdP couldn’t begin to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in the community without the support of FFLC and other essential allies.