SPRING VALLEY — Summer is a challenging time for local food pantries.
Patrons who have school-aged children are in greater need, as they struggle to keep their children, who are home from school all day, fed during summer break.
Project Success, which runs the Hall Township Food Pantry, saw and heard these needs and decided to take action this summer with a new program, Second Helpings, to assist those struggling to make ends meet in the summer.
The program kicked off in June and allows families with school-aged children (ages 4-17) to visit the food pantry a second time during the month. Usually, families are allowed to visit the pantry once every 30 days, but families who qualify get a pass to return two weeks after their monthly visit for a “second helping.”
The second pass only applies to food — beauty and household shelf items do not apply. The program ends in August.
Jan Martin, Project Success of Eastern Bureau County executive director, was thrilled to announce how well the program has been going and how grateful she is for all community donations that has made this opportunity possible.
“The morale with the patrons is very high. They are so exited they don’t have to wait that extra week to come back to the pantry. It’s a real stress reliever for them,” she said.
Margarita Morales of DePue is one who has taken advantage of the Second Helpings program. With four children at home in the summertime, it’s hard to keep the refrigerator and pantry shelves stocked.
“(My kids) need to eat to keep their energy up,” she said. “And they’re always out playing soccer and get thirsty fast, so it’s nice to have that extra milk, water or juice for them.”
With high grocery prices and a paycheck only coming in every 15 days, the opportunity to get a second helping at the food pantry wipes away the stress of wondering how the Morales family is going to make ends meet in those last weeks before their next visit.
Martin said about 75 percent of patrons visiting the food pantry have school-aged children. The total cost to provide the program is yet unknown, but Martin said she has estimated it to be around $8,000 for the three months.
“It’s a lot of food to generate,” she said. “I hate to keep asking the community for donations, but I have no choice. We have a lot of hungry people in our communities, and we have to help them out.”
In order to make up for the program’s costs, Martin said Project Success has hosted extra fundraisers.
“If anybody has a new idea for a fundraiser, I’m open to any them,” Martin said. “We have a great community, who is always generous with their donations. We get wonderful donations back, but I don’t want to keep hitting the same people. I’m thinking if more people realized the double serving, they will be more generous in their giving.”
The Hall Township Food Pantry feeds an average of 325 families a month, which comes out to be about 1,000 individuals. The food pantry covers nine communities including Arlington, Bureau, Cherry, Dalzell, DePue, Hollowayville, Ladd, Seatonville and Spring Valley. Families receive about 60 to 70 pounds of food during each visit.
The Hall Township Food Pantry is the only local pantry open five days a week. Hours are 10 a.m. to noon on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
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