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Hungry at the holidays

Editor’s note: The following story is the first in a series on the needs at area food pantries.

PRINCETON — The spirit of giving is appreciated not only around the Christmas holiday but throughout the year, according to Vanessa Hoffeditz, director of the Tri-Counties Opportunities Council food pantry in Princeton.

Hoffeditz said the Princeton food pantry, located at 1019 N. Main St., has served well more than 300 individuals each month during at least the last six months. Some of those people are regulars, but the food pantry has been averaging 15-20 new individuals each month.

Looking at recent statistics, Hoffeditz said the food pantry served 307 individuals in September, which represented 122 households. In October, the food pantry served 348 individuals, representting 138 households. Though November numbers weren’t yet completed, she expects those numbers to be well more than 300 individuals again, Hoffeditz said.

The week before Thanksgiving, the food pantry distributed 151 food baskets, compared to 125 baskets last year. Another 10 turkeys were given out during the week of Thanksgiving. If more baskets had been available, she has no doubt she could have distributed close to 200 food baskets this year.

The need continues to be great in the Bureau County area, Hoffeditz said.

“There are so many folks who are unemployed or have had their hours cut. And all the while, food prices are continuing to increase,” Hoffeditz said. “More and more people just can’t make ends meet, and so they use the food pantry to help get them through the end of the month.”

Fortunately, this is the time of year when people do think of the food pantry with their financial gifts and food donations, Hoffeditz said.

“But with the demand so high, our donations go out quickly,” she said.

Some supplies which are needed include food items like macaroni and cheese, canned fruits and vegetables, as well as paper products. soaps and personal hygiene items. A local group is finishing a cereal drive for the food pantry, so that need will be met for a while, Hoffeditz said.

Looking ahead to Christmas, Hoffeditz said the food pantry has taken reservations for the Princeton Elks Lodge’s Christmas baskets/Michael Young toy drive distribution. The deadline for those reservations was originally Dec. 7, but the quota has already been met, which just speaks to the need, she said.

Several local businesses and organizations are currently having a coat drive for the food pantry with those items to be distributed next week. Persons must bring with them proof of residency in Bureau County and also provide 30 days of income. The coat distribution will be from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 3, 4 and 5; from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 6; and from 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 7.

The bottom line is there is still a great need, even a growing need, to help people who are having a difficult time financially, Hoffeditz said. National statistics show one in six families in the United States is experiencing food instability, which means they don’t know from where their next meal is coming or possibly parents are giving up a meal in order to feed their children.

“This is a nationwide statistic, but it’s here as well,” Hoffeditz said. “We know those statistics are pretty accurate for what is happening locally. This is the giving season, and we want to be there for those who are struggling.”

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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