0

Need grows this holiday season for area food pantries

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

The client lists for area food pantries is steadily increasing, and will continue to grow beyond this Thanksgiving holiday, according to volunteers who serve those in need.

Feed My People Food Pantry and Helping In His Name Ministries, both Stockbridge food pantries, have struggled to serve a growing need in the Southern Crescent.

And this holiday season - even with the outpouring of seasonal support in donations - will be no less a struggle, said Donna Crumbley, Helping In His Name Ministries executive director.

"It will be a blur," Crumbley said of the increased traffic that will likely outpace the pantry's food donations. The pantry averages 55 clients a day on a regular basis. But during the holidays, she said, the demand only grows and her client list seemingly doubles compared to donations.

"It's good, but not nearly enough to meet demand," she said. "It's going to be busy from now through Christmas."

The traffic began increasing a full week before the week of Thanksgiving.

Of the 65 families needing food donations on Nov. 12, 45 were scheduled appointments, and 20 were emergency walk-ins.

"Every year, I say it's worse and worse," Crumbley said. "I lose a lot of sleep. I don't see any light at the end of the tunnel. [But] we're really a blessing to these people."

During that same week, the pantry received more than 36,000 pounds of donated food items, solely from area schools. It receives much of its food donations this time of year from schools, businesses, and churches.

"If every church were to give us $20 a month, I wouldn't have any problems," Crumbley said.

The pantry spends $3,000 a month for discounted food alone, purchased from the Atlanta Community Food Bank. The food bank, itself, collects nearly one million pounds of food each year through food drives.

Some 42,000 people are served each week by more than 800 Atlanta Community Food Bank partner agencies in 38 metro Atlanta and North Georgia counties, said Janice Reece, Atlanta Community Food Bank director of projects and marketing.

In all, there are about 483,000 people in metro Atlanta who are in need.

"Our purpose is multi-fold," Reece said. "You have to address the issues of hunger and poverty by distributing food."

The percentage of Georgians living at, or below, the poverty level is more than 14 percent.

And though the Food Bank distributes an average of about two million pounds per month, with 23 million pounds distributed all of last year, the donations have been down lately.

The Food Bank received 4 percent less in products this October, compared to the same time last year.

"For every dollar donated," Reece said, "the Atlanta Community Food Bank can provide $8.28 worth of groceries for those in need,"

"For us, this is the time when the community thinks about us more. [But] people eat year-round, and several times during the day. So, the need is always there."

-

On the net:

Feed My People: www.feedmypeople.biz

Helping In His Name Ministries: www.helpinginhisname.org

Atlanta Community Food Bank: www.acfb.org