Cupboard Is Nearly Bare

By BEN KLEIN

bklein@timesobserver.com

Summer is typically a tough time for the food pantry at the Salvation Army.

But this is something different.

“We’re going through food at record pace,” Bill Stright, caseworker for the Salvation Army, said. “More and more people, the food stamps have plummeted, people’s incomes and hours are being cut left and right because different government programs are bring shifted around and so forth, and just out of work. We see probably more people who have never been here before now than we see people who have been here before…families, middle class, people that have just been out of work for a long time and they’re down and out and they’re scared.”

There are many organizations and churches in Warren County that do regular food drives for the Salvation Army. Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church has done a monthly food drive within the church for about 28 years, Stright said. The Salvation Army itself serves lunches on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from noon to 1 p.m. with an evening meal on Wednesdas from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Two other meals are available in the city on Tuesdays at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. and Thursdays at First Presbyterian Church from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m..

Even with all the donations and support from the community, Stright said, “We’re going through food at record pace.”

“This is a different animal. I started here four years ago and it wasn’t a big deal at all. The food, we’d order every two or three months and we’d be fine. There was never any empty shelves. But now we’re somewhere between two and three times the amount of food going out of here as there was back then. It’s just more people and more often,” he said.

The food drive by members of the Postal Service union was a major success for the Salvation Army, Stright said, but they are now at extremely low levels of staple items in the food pantry.

The Salvation Army needs a number of staples, including cereal, peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti sauce, canned tuna fish, mashed potatoes, apple juice, grape juice, saltine crackers, cookies, toilet paper, paper towels and hygiene items such as toothpaste and toothbrushes.

If frozen meats can be donated, Stright said to call the Salvation Army to discuss how to donate the items properly.

“Almost daily I sit across the table from someone in tears because they’re so embarrassed to come here for help who have never had to before. Just understand, no one here judges. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. It is our privilege to serve anyone in need as best as we can and we just trust God to fill those needs,” he said. “Warren County is the most generous group of people that I’ve seen or heard of. They are amazing. No matter how bad the economy gets the people come through and I’ve just never seen or heard anything like it.”