Pet Food Pantry

Written by Heide Brandes in the December 2013 Issue

What do you do when money is tight and you don’t have enough money to feed yourself, not to mention your pet?

Kim & Mike PempinMany seniors and homeless people in central Oklahoma share their own hard-to-come-by food with their beloved animals, increasing the risk of malnutrition for both. Kim Pempin and her husband Mike saw this scenario far too often. While traditional food banks helped provide needed nutrition to people, very few helped with pet food.

In many communities like Oklahoma City, however, organizations now exist that distribute pet food to needy pet owners. The Pet Food Pantry of OKC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing hunger in pets and the people who love them by providing pet food and pet services to low-income senior citizens, the homeless and veterans. “By providing these people with pet food, we are doing more than just feeding their pet—we are helping keep food in their own bowl,” said Kim. “No one should go hungry. Also by helping feed these pets, fewer animals will end up in rescues and shelters.”

Kim has shared her life with animals since she was a child. Already involved in animal rescue, she found her calling when she heard about a dog named Avalanche that lived at Grace Rescue Mission in Oklahoma City.  She knew the mission was feeding the poor and the homeless, so she decided she would donate food for the hound. “I told them I would bring them pet food, and I literally dropped off the food on my lunch hour one day,” Kim said. “They were so thankful, and I heard God’s voice in my head saying that this could be something bigger.”

Woman with her cat

With that thought, Kim pulled her friends together to find out if any organization in Central Oklahoma was giving pet food to the poor for their animals. Besides a lone temporary shelter, no one was. “I came back and started doing research. I studied other pet food pantries around the country and contacted them,” Kim said. “Then, I just came up with the name and filed the paperwork. I knew that if we were going to do something like this, we had to do it right.

The Pet Food Pantry started in June 2010 in the Pempins’ garage, and Kim and her husband began delivering pet food to the elderly who were referred to her by other organizations. The need grew, as did the volunteer force. Six months later, the Pempins expanded the operation to a storage building and then added a second one. “I was delivering to 15 or 16 people at the time. Now we have 85 seniors on our delivery list, in addition to the homeless. Their pets are mainly cats and dogs, but we even have some people who own birds,” said Pempin.

The Pet Food Pantry teamed up with the Rescue Bank of Houston, a clearinghouse for donated pet food for organizations around the country. After expanding yet again, the Pet Food Pantry is a full-time operation for the Pempins and the board of directors. Pallets of 20-pound dog food and cat food line the walls and are separated for delivery to seniors each month. Then the volunteers travel around the metro area for deliveries.

Sassy the dogEach client fills out detailed paperwork. They are required to meet some expectations, like not chaining their dog up all day or not reselling the pet food that’s donated. Also they are required to eat their own food and to only feed the donated pet food to the animals. “We had one volunteer who saw a lady receive her delivered meal, open it, and feed the food to her dog,” Kim said. “She said the dog was hungrier than she was. This is why we do this—to keep people and pets from going hungry.”

After three and a half years of operation, the Pet Food Pantry continues to grow. After the tornadoes in Oklahoma this May, the scale increased as they rushed to help with pets displaced by the storms. They provided more than 2,500 pounds of food for the Animal Resource Center in Moore following the storms.

The Pet Food Pantry is currently accepting applications for volunteers and donations. Although pet food donations are accepted, monetary donations go further. For instance, a donor could buy $100 worth of pet food, but through the Pet Food Pantry’s partnership with the Rescue Bank of Houston, Pempin can get 1000 pounds of food for the same amount.

“There really is a need for this, and we can and do make a difference,” she said. “No one deserves to go hungry.”

For more information or to donate, visit petfoodpantryokc.org.

3 Comments

Lisa Roper Says:
December 13th, 2013 at 7:02 am
Youcan get in contact with Purina in Edmond and they ususally give all torn bags away to causes like yours and they also give a lot more food. Think this is a good cause they would be glad to give to.

Barbara Callahan Says:
January 14th, 2014 at 8:44 am
Do you take contributions of opened dry dog food. Please let me know or give me the names of organizations that do

Cindy Wickham Says:
August 22nd, 2014 at 6:56 pm
I'm wondering if you help with food for cats in Edmond ok?
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