PRINCETON — With Bureau County residents in the swing for Christmas shopping and giving, Vanessa Hoffeditz is asking people to remember their local food pantries.
As director of the Tri-Counties Opportunities Council food pantry in Princeton, Hoffeditz said the number of families and individuals using the Princeton Food Pantry continues to rise.
In November, the food pantry served 169 households, representing 457 individuals. That number compares to 160 households served in October and 158 households served In September. She expects the December numbers to at least meet and probably surpass the November numbers.
This year, the food pantry distributed 170 Thanksgiving food baskets, which is 31 more than distributed last year, she said.
Overall, the food pantry averages 20-25 new families a month — people who have never needed the food pantry before.
“I have been tracking those numbers of new families because that tells the real story,” she said.
Some of those new people are people who are still looking for jobs; or maybe they’ve found a job, but it’s at minimum wage with part-time hours, Hoffeditz said. It’s hard to support a family like that, she added.
There’s also an increase in the number of senior citizens using the food pantry, Hoffeditz said. Those seniors have worked hard all their lives but are now on fixed incomes and needing some assistance. Hoffeditz said it’s hard for them to come and ask for help.
Also, another probable reason for the increase in numbers is because people saw a cut in their food stamps in November, Hoffeditz said.
Right now, the shelves at the Princeton Food Pantry are needing to be replenished to keep up with the increased demand, Hoffeditz said.
Topping that list of needed items are things like canned fruit, cereals, Hamburger/Tuna Helper, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter, jelly and canned tuna, as well as all the paper products and toiletries.
“But basically, we really need everything right now,” she said. “We are here to fill the gap because there is a gap. As the economy continues to struggle, I think that gap will remain.”
Looking ahead to Christmas, the food pantry is taking reservations for the Princeton Elks Lodge’s Christmas baskets/Michael Young Toy Drive distribution, but the deadline for those reservations is Friday, Hoffeditz said.
The food pantry is open for food distribution from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Financial donations may be sent to 1019 N. Main St., Princeton, IL. 61356. Food and product donations are generally accepted from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, but people are encouraged to call ahead to make sure someone is in the pantry.
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