A Roomier Food Pantry Welcomes More


Marcus Colombo

The renovated Pierre Touissant Food Pantry at St. Benedict’s gives visitors a much better experience, according to Sister Linda Klaiss, O.S.J., who manages the pantry.

 If you walk through the lobby at St. Benedict’s Prep and go down the first flight of stairs you will see a room. This room is not a classroom or a faculty break room. This room is the office of Sr. Linda Klaiss O.S.J and an entryway to the St. Benedict’s Prep Pierre Touissant Food Pantry. If you turn left upon entering, you will see three tables with little wood boards on wheels under them to hold and transport food. You also see two upright freezers and three refrigerators and shelves to organize massive amounts of food.

The space, formerly filled with lockers, has been entirely opened up and renovated, making for a positive change.

“We used to give pre-determined bags of food,” Sr. Linda said. “Now the people are allowed to pick up what they want.” The opened up area allows for more of a shopping experience so that visitors to the food pantry can walk through and interact with volunteers and choose what they want, she added.

Sr. Linda is expecting that the food pantry will serve hundreds of people through the Thanaksgiving-Christmas season.

Marcus Colombo
The food pantry serves hundreds of families and individuals over the holiday period. A portion of the Thanksgiving collection is stored in Sr. Linda’s office.

 Since the renovations occurred, Sr. Linda said that people have been happy with the changes. “I will say so far no one has complained,” Sr. Linda said.

As recently as six months ago, the food pantry was far more cluttered than it is today. What made the difference, according to Sr. Linda, is that someone came along and changed everything.

At the end of the 2018-2019 school year, many students were getting ready to check out of classes for the summer; one student and his father, however, decided to help out the food pantry. The student was Emile “Milo” Hammam ‘19.  He and his father, Mr. Nabil Hammam, decided to completely renovate the food pantry.

 At the time, the pantry had only one doorway and most of the supplies were piled on top of each other because of tight space and a limited number of electrical outlets. This lack of outlets made working in the food pantry difficult for the volunteers.  

 The Hammams gutted the space, pulled out the lockers, and added new outlets, tables, freezers, a new doorway, shelving, and wiring. They completely changed the layout of the pantry. 

The food pantry has been fully established for 33 years.  Sr. Linda, who is a member of the Catholic order of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Philadelphia, was sent here 34 years ago  to continue her faith work. She took over the management of the pantry after another nun who had been running it died. Sr. Linda has seen a lot of changes occur at Benedict’s in her years here. She said that the biggest changes include the expansion of the school into a K-12 facility, and in St. Mary’s Church, the greater number of people attending church services.

The way the renovations to the food pantry came around were that Mr. Hammam had seen the food pantry and had asked Sister Linda and insisted that he fix the food pantry. Sr. Linda had asked some questions such as how long would the reconstruction take and the details of the renovations. She also did not want the pantry to be closed during the construction. Mr. Hammam gave her the details and assured her that the pantry operations could continue for the duration.

The construction began immediately and the project took about 3 months to complete. 

 Visitors, Sr. Linda said, “have a nicer experience now.”