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Summer needs hit food pantry

SHEFFIELD — Summer months can be a challenge for families because children are home and not receiving their breakfast and lunch at school, according to Mary Lanham, manager of the Western Bureau County Food Pantry.

On Monday, Lanham said the local food pantry is there to help meet some of those summer needs. Actually, the number of people served through the Western Bureau County Food Pantry has stayed fairly steady with about 75 to 80 households served each month. About 55 percent of those households are families with children 18 years and younger.

There is also a significant number of elderly people who come for assistance from the food pantry, Lanham said, and it’s very difficult for them to come and ask for help. There are also unemployed people and underemployed people seeking help. There are also households in which one of the adults has lost his/her job. There are people with no health insurance, and sometimes, a medical need takes the money which would have been used otherwise for food, she said.

As far as needs at the food pantry, Lanham said the recent Stamp Out Hunger food drive held by the local post office was a huge help for the food pantry. There was a great variety of things collected, which was nice for the families to get something different. The food pantry just ran out of those collected items last week, she said.

The food pantry always has a need for the basics, like cereal, Lanham said. There is also a need for personal hygiene items which families can’t buy with their Link cards, things like shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant. Those things are almost like luxury items for the food pantry to be able to give families, she said.

The board of directors for the food pantry is trying to move toward healthier food items for families. The board has asked the food pantry to give small bags of fresh fruit to people, but that practice has been discontinued during the summer months because the food pantry does not have enough refrigeration to keep the fruit in good condition. The board has also asked that frozen vegetables be given to families. Hopefully, the food pantry will receive fresh garden produce this summer to distribute like it did last year, Lanham said.

The small communities within the food pantry region have been very generous in their support of the food pantry, both in their monetary and food/supply donations to the pantry and also as volunteers.

Lanham said the food pantry has a great group of volunteers who range in age from fourth grade to 80 years old. They work hard and are good-hearted. They stock shelves and help carry supplies out to cars for the patrons. They have a good time together while helping others, she said.

Working at the Western Bureau County Food Pantry can be a bittersweet-kind of thing, she said.

“I’m sad that so many people are in this condition, worrying about how they will feed their children or themselves,” Lanham said. “But it’s so heartwarming to know that we all are looking out for each other. I think small towns are good at that.”

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 open Wednesdays from 9 to 11 a.m. and from 4 to 6 p.m. Generally,
people can come to the food pantry once a month, but people with unexpected emergency situations won’t be turned away, Lanham said.

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