Archive for Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tough economy has food pantries worried

October 29, 2008

As hard economic times continue to strike the American population, community civic organizations are not exempt from the problem.

Across the country and here at home, services such as food pantries and low-income assistance programs are facing a bleak future as purse strings tighten and many people cut back on charitable giving.

Basehor Baptist Church, 3714 N. 155th St., is certainly feeling the squeeze on its assistance program.

Pastor Joe Martin said that the church has a unique food program. Instead of stocking a pantry full of food that will go bad over time, Martin said a while back the church decided to give Aldi grocery store gift cards to families in need.

“It’s been very effective for us. It’s been helpful to people needing help,” Martin said, adding that Aldi was chosen because no alcohol or cigarettes are sold in the store.

But those gift cards’ dollar amounts have been getting smaller and that will probably continue to be the case, Martin said, because the church as already used up its entire yearly budget set aside for its food-assistance program.

While some funds come from donations, Martin said the majority of the program is funded through the budget. With that amount gone, Martin said the church is trying to do whatever it can to help as many people as possible.

Martin said that the reason the church has overspent its budget is because it has been receiving several more phone calls from people in need.

“We’ve seen an increase in people calling. Everywhere, from the county, city and state, we see that people are really starting to struggle,” he said.

Martin said that everyone is “feeling the pinch right now,” and that the church is not alone. But giving up or shutting down the program is not an option, he said.

“We love to help everyone who contacts us,” Martin said. “For the size we are — 100 people — this church is very giving. We will continue to do the best that we can. We very seldom have to turn anyone down without helping them in some way or other.”

In just one city over, at the Vaughn-Trent Community Services in Bonner Springs, it’s not the food supply that is hurting. Concern falls across organizers’ faces, however, when it comes to the outlook of monetary donations that make their services possible.

“As far as our food is concerned, we’re very fortunate,” said Carol Geary, executive director of Vaughn-Trent. “The thing I’m worried about is the Fund Drive starting in November. I’m really concerned. We’ve got to cultivate new givers.”

The pantry is lucky that it does not have to deal with the bare shelves and empty cupboards that many food pantries across the Kansas City metro are facing. Geary’s concern, however, is a serious one and deals with the operating expenses that make those cupboards and shelves possible at all.

“With the way the economy is going, people only give $10, $15 or $25,” Geary said. “A lot of people don’t know about us and I don’t know how to get the word out that we exist and that we’re here to help people.”

Geary did attribute the pantry’s good fortune when it came to food items to the generosity of the Bonner Springs-area community. From youths collecting items for school projects to churches collecting items as a congregation, Geary said that Vaughn-Trent, which is located at 246 Shadyside St., has a lot to be thankful for during this tough time.

Still, last year’s Fund Drive showed a decreased in donations, and Geary said, and she expects the center to take another blow this year.

“We’re anticipating that our Fund Drive may not be as lucrative as when we need it to be,” Geary said. “We won’t know for sure until it’s over, but I am concerned.”

In the meantime, until the economy and the American public get back on their feet, Geary said she is doing all she can to maintain the budget.

“At this point we’re doing all right,” she said, “but I’m watching our expenses very closely.”

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