Families with small children are making up a growing part of the clientele at three Marion County food assistance sites.
Directors of The Lord’s Storehouse at Main Street Ministries in Hillsboro, Tabor Food Pantry at Tabor Mennonite Church near Goessel, and Marion County Emergency Food Bank at Valley United Methodist Church in Marion said they are seeing an increased need from families with multiple mouths to feed.
“We are feeding 150 people each week, which is four times more than we were doing a year ago,” said Lavonne Carrington, Main Street Ministries director. “We don’t have any limitations on who we serve, all are welcome, but we are seeing more and more of the working poor, young families with several mouths to feed and paychecks that just don’t stretch as far as they need to.”
Carrington said since the Lord’s Storehouse does not accept money from any government agencies, applications are not necessary for food assistance. However, this also means that the facility is fully supported and funded by community donations.
“We have some wonderful supporters,” Carrington said. “Sometimes there are anonymous donors who set aside money at the local grocery stores for us and we can buy what we need, thanks to them.”
Carrington said food for the needy also came from church, school, and community group food drives and donations, as well as individuals.
“We had a gentleman that recently butchered a bull,” she said. “He paid all the processing fees, put it all in hamburger, and gave us all the meat. This is a good time for it too, because this time on Saturday it will likely all be gone.”
This Saturday Carrington said food commodities would be available for pickup at the Hillsboro facility and while people were there, they would likely stop in and get the frozen items as well.
“We definitely have a need for more meat, dairy, and fresh food items,” she said. “It’s very hard to feed a family these days, and the donations are so very much appreciated.”
Janna Duerksen, Tabor Food Pantry committee member, said a continued need for groceries kept them busy in the rural Goessel area.
“We served a family just yesterday that has two paychecks, but there are several children and then extended family members in the same household,” she said. “It is just very hard in this economy to make all the ends meet when there are many mouths to feed.”
Duerksen said the rural church facility was very grateful for the Goessel High School can-the-teacher-day, which brought in a large amount of canned goods to the food pantry. In addition, Parent Teacher Organization food drives and donations from other local groups kept their shelves full.
“We always have a need for items like toilet paper and laundry detergent,” she said.
“Sometimes people just don’t think of those needs. Also peanut butter is very big, as is macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, spaghetti and sauce, or cereal. It is amazing how expensive cereal is these days.”
Marion County Emergency Food Bank director Janet Bryant also said she has seen an increase in younger families needing food.
“It’s a constant struggle for those families with young children,” she said. “Sometimes we even have people come in that gave food in a donation a year or two ago, but now they find themselves on the other end, needing assistance.”
Bryant said the food bank in Marion works on a referral basis and people could not just drop in randomly.
“We have ministers make a referral and then we are glad to have them come in and choose what they need,” she said.
The food bank gets its support from the churches and community organizations in the Marion area.
“We used to get more food donations and now people are more apt to give money,” Bryant said. “We certainly appreciate whatever way people choose to give, it is all put to good use, but the actual food donations are a lot easier for all of us.”
Bryant said those wishing to make food donations to the Marion County Emergency Food Bank could drop off their items on Monday and Thursday mornings at the Valley United Methodist Church.
Donations are also accepted at the Tabor Food Pantry and Main Street Ministry by calling (620) 367-2318, and (620) 877-0942, respectively.