By Laura Smith
December 8, 2008
For the local Alamance County community, money has not just been tight when it comes to buying Christmas presents. The poor economy has taken a big toll on food pantries in the area. With fewer donations, these pantries are finding their shelves empty and their morale down.
The Burlington Salvation Army is one such food pantry. The organization has a small pantry for those who are not eligible for larger pantries, such as Loaves and Fishes. It is strictly for emergency situations and gives to those who cannot receive food stamps.
Robin Drummond, a caseworker at the Burlington Salvation Army, understands the effect of this poor economy on donations to the pantry. The Salvation Army even had to change its guidelines for food distribution when the economy went down.
“It’s been terrible,” she said. “We’ve been getting less and less food because of the economy.”
To beat the economy’s negative effects, the Salvation Army is relying on its annual holiday Kettle Drive as well as its Christmas Concert with the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra, which will be held at Elon University at the Koury Center on Dec. 21 at 3 p.m.
The admission? Food for the hungry. This can include canned or non-perishable food.
In spite of it all, Drummond remains optimistic about the generosity the local community has shown. After a FOX 8 news broadcast that focused on the charity aired a few weeks ago, Drummond explained that giving increased immensely.
“People have been very generous,” Drummond said. “We’ve tried to compromise and work together to make the most of it [the food].”
The food pantry within the Alamance County Community Service Agency has also experienced a lack of donations due to the economic recession.
Like the Salvation Army, ACCSA has a small food pantry that is used for emergency needs only; the food given can supply families for three to four days.
“We’ve definitely seen a decrease,” Tony Roper, ACCSA executive director, said. “I went to the pantry today and it looked pretty bare. This time of year, there are usually a lot of donations, but not this year.”
Like Drummond, Roper is staying optimistic despite the circumstances.
“We’re open to contributions to help low-income families,” he said.
He is positive that Elon University can help with these contributions.
“Anything from the campus community is greatly appreciated,” he said.
Drummond feels the same way. “Elon has been very supportive,” she said. “We couldn’t do a lot without them.”
Loaves and Fishes Christian Food Ministry is one of the larger food pantries in the Alamance County area. The pantry receives no funding from local, state or federal governments and relies solely on individuals, churches, grants and foundations and businesses. Once accepted that it is in need, the family receives a month’s worth of food.
Like the Salvation Army and ACCSA, Loaves and Fishes has been dealing with tough times as well.
“We have over 1,000 more people coming in each month,” Brenda Ingle Allen, executive director, said. “We budgeted for around 6,000 each month, so an additional 1,000 per month has put a real cramp on our food and money situation.”
While donations are still steady, it is not necessarily enough.
“Our donations have been up as always, but with a higher number of people searching for assistance the demand far outweighs the means,” she said.
The Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina has seen the lack of donations within these kinds of food pantries. Second Harvest works with 415 pantries in over 18 counties across Northwest North Carolina, supplying food for their shelves.
According to Erin Foster, marketing manager, donations of food have been down 15 percent compared to last year and there has been a 30 to 100 percent increase of people coming to get food from these pantries that Second Harvest provides for.
Second Harvest itself has had a hard time obtaining the food for the 415 pantries.
“We have not been able to get as much food as in the past because of the economic recession,” Foster said.
And it may be surprising to find out that a larger population of those in need of the food is not what many may think.
“Hungry people in the community are not just the homeless,” Foster said. “It is becoming more common that the middle class is part of this.”
Due to factors such as job cuts and rising prices on essential items, food has been harder to come by for many families.
“The food has been going out as fast as it has been coming in,” Foster said.
Like the Salvation Army, ACCSA and Loaves and Fishes, Second Harvest relies on the generosity of others to help out with the lack of food.
“We look to the community to fill that gap,” Foster said.
Second Harvest is currently utilizing its Web site, volunteers, and food drives to encourage donating.
“There are three things the community can donate,” Foster said. “Money, food, and their time.”