Pet food pantry helps animal owners provide care during tough times
More than a decade ago, Rene Lamp started a pet food pantry out of her Rootstown home to help owners avoid surrendering their animals to shelters because they couldn't afford to feed them.
Now, she said, the demand for the pantry has surged as the cost of pet food has skyrocketed, and people are struggling to feed their "pandemic pets."
"If I'm struggling, I can only imagining how bad other people are struggling," she said.
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Lamp and her late husband, Tom, started People Care Pet Pantry 13 years ago, after learning many people had to surrender their pets because they couldn't afford to feed them.
Over the years, they assembled a team of volunteers — whose help became even more critical after Tom's death — and formed partnerships with businesses throughout Portage and Summit counties to accept donations. In Portage County, donations can be dropped off at Centerra Country Store in Ravenna and Petco in Brimfield, or made on the agency's website.
The Lamp family also expanded to include four dogs — Carley, Daisy, Sassy and Ozzy.
At Christmas, the pantry organizes the "Share the Love" project, which partners with other social service agencies to provide Christmas gifts to families and their pets.
Lamp stores donations at her home and takes them to the Petco in Brimfield, where she sets up every two weeks in the parking lot and distributes the pet food in drive-thru fashion. Residents of Portage and Summit counties can sign up to receive food and other donations, either on the website or by messaging the pantry on Facebook. Recipients can only arrange to pick up donations once a month; distributions occur twice a month to avoid overwhelming the drive-thru operation.
Lamp said the need for assistance spiked three years ago with the onset of COVID-19 and the quarantine. "The phone lines were nonstop" with jobless people in need of pet food, she said.
Demand has not eased even as COVID-19 worries have largely subsided; climbing food prices have driven interest in the pet pantry even higher. At a recent distribution, 128 new people signed up for food.
"In 13 years, we've never had this many people," she said. "I've had people from other states call me. It breaks my heart."
Keeping pets out of shelters
Lamp said area shelters know about the pantry. When people surrender their pets, they are asked the reason, and some cite the cost of pet ownership.
"When they asked them, 'If you could get food for free, would you keep them?' a lot of them said yes," Lamp said.
Lamp was teary at the thought of people keeping their pets because the pantry exists.
"That's the reason that I started this," she said.
Reporter Diane Smith can be reached at 330-298-1139 or email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Pet food pantry helps Portage, Summit animal owners provide care