Food pantry experiences increased needs

Published: Friday, Dec. 13, 2013 2:41 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Dec. 13, 2013 2:42 p.m. CDT

SHEFFIELD — The Western Bureau County Food Pantry is gearing up for the Christmas season and will distribute 94 Christmas food baskets this year to needy families.

Mary Lanham, who manages the food pantry with her husband Cleo, said the food pantry has seen a definite increase in the number of people using the food pantry during the past three months. Just one month ago, the food pantry distributed 80 Thanksgiving food baskets. Now that number has jumped to 94 families signing up for Christmas baskets. Those 94 families represent 320 people, she said.

The Western Bureau County Food Pantry serves the communities of Buda, Sheffield, Mineral and Neponset, along with some residents of Manlius, who also have the option of going to the Tri-County Council Opportunities Food Pantry in Princeton, Lanham said. Through its four main communities, the Western Bureau County Food Pantry serves about 15 percent of that total combined population, she said.

Some of the increased use of the food pantry is because more people have lost their jobs, Lanham said. Others are cases in which both adults worked but one has lost his/her job. Also, the recent cut to the food stamp program has had a big impact. The grocery costs haven’t decreased, nor gas costs, so people are needing assistance with their food costs, she said.

As far as getting the Christmas baskets prepared this year, Lanham said the food pantry is going with a breakfast theme, with ham and eggs, juice, toast and fresh fruit. In conjunction with the food baskets, the Bunker Hill Church of God in Buda and the St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Sheffield are again sponsoring an Angel Gift Tree, distributing name tags for gifts for the children in the Christmas basket families.

But the food pantry’s extra outreaches, like the holiday baskets, are above and beyond what is regularly needed and distributed on a monthly basis through the food pantry, Lanham said.

For the regular, monthly giving to area families, the food pantry is always in need of food supplies, especially things like canned fruit which has really gone up in price, Lanham said. Also always needed are things like cereal, peanut butter and tuna. People usually think about giving things like canned corns and beans, which are also needed, but there are also other things, even non-food items, which are needed, like personal hygiene items and various kinds of household cleaners and laundry soap. Food stamps don’t cover those kinds of things, she said.

“We just need whatever anyone else needs when they go to the grocery store,” Lanham said. “It’s pretty simple. Whatever you need at your house, we need at the food pantry.”

People in the food pantry’s service area may come to the food pantry once a month and will receive enough food to last 7 to 10 days, as recommended by the River Bend Food Bank, Lanham said. Everyone gets the same items from the food pantry, with larger families getting more of the same items. The food pantry is a supplement to the families, she said.

Thanks to the generosity of the communities, the Western Bureau County Food Bank is meeting a definite need for families and individuals who are struggling, Lanham said. The food pantry has a great team of volunteers and a very supportive board of directors who work together to make the food pantry an importance service to the community, she said.

“Being part of the Western Bureau County Food Pantry makes me thankful we live in a small town,” Lanham said. “Small towns are struggling and I know it’s not easy to come up with any extras sometimes, but people see the need and they are generous because these people are their neighbors and their friends. We look out for each other.”

The Western Bureau County Food Pantry is located at 123 S. Main St. in the Concord Township Hall Building in Sheffield. Open hours are every Wednesday from 9 to 11 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.

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