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Needs growing for Western Bureau County Food Pantry

SHEFFIELD — The spirit of Christmas giving is needed at the Western Bureau County Food Pantry in Sheffield.

The Sheffield-based food pantry is serving twice as many people as it did when it opened its doors in January 2009, according to manager Mary Lanham. In those first months, the food pantry served about 40 families a month. Today, the food pantry is averaging 80 families a month with a total of 88 families receiving Thanksgiving baskets this year.

Though the food pantry did provide Thanksgiving baskets this year, there just aren’t enough funds available to do Christmas baskets as well, Lanham said.

Located at 123 S. Main St. in Sheffield, the Western Bureau County Food Pantry serves people in Buda, Sheffield, Mineral, Neponset and Manlius, though some people in Manlius are served through the Tri-County Opportunities Council food pantry in Princeton. The food pantry is not a primary source of food for families, but it tries to supply enough food for a week to 10 days. People can come to the pantry once a month. The food pantry is open Wednesdays from 9 to 11 a.m. and from 4 to 6 p.m.

Looking at the clientele of the food pantry, Lanham said there is no one set description of the individuals and families who use the food pantry.

For instance, the food pantry serves a lot of the “working poor,” which Lanham described as families in which one parent has lost a job and the other parent just isn’t making enough money to pay the bills. There are also families in which both parents have lost their jobs. There are the single moms. There are also people who qualify for the services of the food pantry but fall a few dollars short of qualifying for food stamps.

A growing number of elderly people are also coming to the food pantry, Lanham said., adding they are on fixed incomes and just don’t have enough money to last the month. The choice is often whether to get needed medicines or to buy food, so they turn to the food pantry for help. It’s very hard emotionally for the elderly to come to the food pantry, she said.

Lanham said the winter is an especially difficult time for many families as heat bills go up, adding to the rising food costs. People have to pay their rent and utility bills, and food is what gets cut. It seems many people are just one big doctor bill, one emergency incident away from needing help, Lanham said.

To help meet those food needs for families, the Western Bureau County Food Pantry is always in need of supplies. There is always a need for cereal. Canned fruit is getting harder to get, though the pantry usually has an adequate supply of canned vegetables. The cost of peanut butter has jumped.

Though some people like to do the shopping themselves to bring into the food pantry, Lanham said monetary donations are also very much appreciated, since the food pantry can buy many things at 18 cents a pound through the River Bend Food Bank in the Quad Cities. The food bank also delivers the food, which saves gas costs for the local pantry. The items which aren’t donated locally or gotten through the food bank, the food pantry buys from local businesses, she said.

The small communities within the food pantry region have been very generous in their support of the food pantry, both in their donations to the pantry and as volunteers. The food pantry couldn’t be done without the support of their communities, Lanham said.

On a personal note, Lanham said managing the food pantry is probably the most rewarding thing which she and her husband, Cleo, have ever done.

“I think we are all here to help each other along the way, and that’s why we are here,” Lanham said.

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