Pet Food Pantry

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
.

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