The only food pantry in Kamas, after closing in May, is looking to reopen
With the building slated to be redeveloped, the nonprofit eyes a temporary home
Ears of corn poked out of a cardboard box of donated food on the porch of the former Kamas food pantry on Thursday, their donor apparently unaware the pantry closed its doors months before.
The Kamas food pantry, run by Community Action Services and Food Bank, was the only pantry in Kamas before it closed May 1, leaving some community members without a key source of support.
While the Provo-based nonprofit works to open a temporary location, the closest pantries to South Summit are in Heber and Park City, with another operating in Coalville.
The pantry was in the small building next to the former South Summit Fire Station at the corner of Main Street and the Mirror Lake Highway.
Tom Hogan, Community Action Services and Food Bank’s chief operations officer, said the pantry had been a staple in Kamas since at least 2005 and helped 25-30 families in a typical month.
“It was a hard decision,” Hogan said of closing the pantry. “Basically, the property we had been in for a number of years sold and the new landlord decided that he was going to take the land and renovate it, do something new with it. We entered into a short-term lease and it became very apparent that we just weren’t going to be in there long term.”
The South Summit Fire District sold the property in February and it is now owned by an LLC of which Ryan Stark is one of two members.
Stark said he is looking to redevelop the former fire station and pantry site, but that it was never his intention to kick the food pantry out of its home.
“We wanted to keep them there,” Stark said. “If rent was too high, 100% we would’ve had a conversation — we would’ve had any conversation.”
Stark said that when the LLC bought the land and two buildings, he took steps to professionalize the relationship the pantry had formerly had with the fire district. That involved establishing the terms of a lease and memorializing it in a contract.
He said he hadn’t had much conversation with the pantry and that the pantry vacated the building after the first month the lease was in effect.
“We never said they had to leave, that’s for sure. I’d rather be getting some rent there,” Stark said. “… We were more than happy to have them there for as long as it made sense.”
Hogan said the rent increased when the pantry signed the new lease, but indicated he didn’t feel it was malicious.
“Our lease had never been changed in the amount of time it had been there. We were paying considerably less than fair market value,” Hogan said.
He said a combination of factors drove the pantry to abandon the location, including the increased rent and the fact that the pantry would eventually have to leave when the buildings were redeveloped.
“It wasn’t unjust, it was just unsustainable,” he said of the new arrangement.
Stark plans to convert the former fire station — the large, white, rectangular building on the corner — into a restaurant, and to use the former food pantry location as a coffee shop.
The pantry was in one of the oldest buildings in Kamas, and it was also once the city’s jail. Hogan said there are remnants of a jail cell in the building’s basement.
Stark presented the outline of the redevelopment plan to the Kamas Planning Commission in June and commissioners indicated they were open to the idea.
Hogan said the nonprofit hopes to return a food pantry to Kamas soon and that it is working on a temporary solution that could be deployed in a matter of months.
Kamas Mayor Matt McCormick said the pantry was important to the community and indicated he hopes it can return soon.
“It would be great to get one back, it’s just hard to find a spot,” he said.
Hogan said the nonprofit recently secured a grant to buy a mobile pantry.
“Think, if you will, a Bookmobile for food distribution,” he said, adding that the truck has both refrigerated and non-refrigerated portions that will allow patrons access to similar food options.
“We want to make sure that we’re back in the mid-fall,” Hogan said. “My target is to have it up and established in October. We would really like to coordinate with the start of school, that’s when families get into a routine.”
Hogan also said the nonprofit has its eye on a building for a permanent location in Kamas.
“We have been part of the Kamas community for quite a while … and we want to be back,” he said.
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