by Caitlin Huston
In her eight years working at the Salvation Army, volunteer coordinator Toni Farris says she has never seen the shelves so bare.
“Our food pantry is almost empty,” Farris said.
The pantry provided food to about 740 families last month, Farris said, and the stock is depleting at a critical rate, making it hard for families to receive the necessary sustenance.
The pantry relies mainly on donations. Farris and Major Rose Eagle attributed the lack of food to the poor economy.
Each month, families come to the pantry and are supposed to receive a balanced load of groceries to feed their families. With the stock running out, Farris said, families aren’t getting the needed nutrition.
“They’re just basically getting vegetables and fruit,” Farris said.
The pantry receives two to four kinds of food items a month from the government, but that still doesn’t make up for the lack of food, Farris said. One critical area of need is meat, she said, which is much in demand.
“What’s in our freezer now won’t last long,” Farris said.
Typically, the pantry tries to stock canned and boxed meals, vegetables, fruit and cleaning supplies.
Farris said the shortage of food started over the summer, when the organization did not receive the typical food from food drives.
“It’s been a really bad year for us,” Farris said.
One reason behind the shortage, Farris said, is that the poor economy makes it hard for anyone to donate.
“We all feel that it’s just because the economy is so bad,” Farris said.
Eagle said higher utility bills resulting from the hot summer had left many families without enough money to buy groceries. Therefore, they’re turning to the Salvation Army.
“We’re really down,” she said. “I guess that means there are more and more people coming.”
Farris also said she’s seen a trend of new visitors to the food pantry.
“People come in with their head down in tears because they’ve never had to ask for help before,” Farris said.
Farris added that the pantry ran out of the 33,000 pounds of food donated from a local school food drive in two weeks. That amount would have typically lasted six weeks.
The Emmaus Food Pantry is not seeing the same kind of shortages, executive director Jason Mitchell said. The crunch there, he says, comes at the end of the month when families’ food stamps run out.
”I see that increased need coming in the next few months especially,” Mitchell said.
Farris said the Salvation Army looks to individuals and food drives to help restock their pantry.
“I just don’t want to see a kid go hungry,” she said.
Caitlin Huston is a staff reporter of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or firstname.lastname@example.org.