CRESWELL – In what volunteers hope is a good sign, food pantries across Lane County are seeing less demand during boxed-food distributions the past few weeks, local officials said.

“We have seen a two-month, tapered decrease in food pantry customers – from a weekly average of 110 families to as low as 71,” said Susan Blachnik, Community Food for Creswell programs manager. “Our pre-pandemic baseline was 67.”

Blachnik said it’s common for demand to fluctuate based on a number of factors.

“We realize that the numbers will ebb and flow based on the stimulus assistance, changes in Covid risk in Lane County, children returning to school, etc. Our food pantry has been kept well-stocked to accommodate the fluctuation in distribution.”

Volunteers in Creswell continue to repackage bulk foods in the new community kitchen, Blachnik said, citing items such as chocolate baking chips, oatmeal, dried diced mandarines, and dried, diced apples.

She said her team plans to repackage the more-challenging item of rye flour this week. These foods are distributed in weekly food boxes, in addition to non-perishable canned and packaged foods, frozen meats, dairy products, fresh produce, and bread, she said.

And more tasty options are on the way: “We are expecting a bulk delivery of brown sugar and dried pumpkin seeds in the coming weeks,” she said.

Blachnik said the Creswell Food Pantry has begun distributing “grab-and-go” meals from its community kitchen each Thursday from 9:30 a.m.-noon.

With a $2,500 grant from CreswellFirst!, the food pantry has purchased supplies for repackaging as well as for meal distribution, and foods such as prepared soups, casseroles, and sandwiches. Last week the volunteers prepared 241 snack packs containing Nancy’s yogurt cups and farm-fresh hard-boiled eggs from Tangled Orchard Farm.

“We are grateful for the community support of our programs. With local financial and food donations, we are reducing hunger in Creswell,” Blachnik said.