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Debra Nolan made two grocery shopping trips Monday. One was to the supermarket with her food stamps to try to stock her nearly empty pantry. The other was to Columbus’ Salvation Army headquarters to get fresh vegetables and other items after her food stamps ran short of her needs.
“I don’t know what I would do (without this),” the Columbus resident said of the food bank, her eyes watery with emotion as she selected cereal and peanut butter from the agency’s shelves. “My food supply isn’t reaching to the end of the month.”
She has been unable to work as a result of an illness, requiring her to file for disability benefits.
Nolan and others rely on the lifeline provided by local food pantries. The July 27 closing of Human Services Inc.’s pantry, which Nolan and hundreds of others had utilized, has put additional strain on the three remaining pantries serving Bartholomew County.
At the Salvation Army, Lt. Alan Sladek has seen 123 new families needing help with groceries.
By comparison, it served 206 families total in June.
“What’s good is that, so far, we’ve been able to fill the need,” Sladek said.
At least that was the case until Monday when the ministry’s shelves nearly went empty. Sladek is hoping for donations of canned meats and tuna and carbohydrate items such as macaroni and cheese.
At Love Chapel, the biggest pantry in size and number of clients here, the staff has seen a rise of about 100 families to more than 800 a month since Human Services ended its food help.
To meet the increased need, the service funded by local Christian churches recently increased the amount of food distributed to families. A three- to five-day supply gradually is being boosted to a seven- to 10-day supply, according to Elizabeth Kessler, Love Chapel’s executive director.
Also, Love Chapel recently applied for a $25,000 grant to purchase a walk-in cooler that will allow it to keep more meats and other foods to meet the increased need.
Love Chapel also will ease the burden soon by distributing government commodities, something it hasn’t done because it traditionally has required clients to provide more detailed information of their need than the government asks. Human Services distributed commodities before it closed.
At the Community Center of Hope, which opens its pantry a half day per week, the need has increased only slightly so far, according to Julie Begin, the center’s executive director.
“But we still are encouraging people to donate more food,” she said.
Just as Human Services pantry closed, Begin had said additional community support and help would be imperative for the center’s pantry to meet others’ needs.
Mike Brown of Columbus just heard this week of Human Services’ pantry closing. So, he ended up at Salvation Army for help, since he already has made his once-per-month visit to Love Chapel.
“I would be in a real pinch without this,” he said, gathering canned goods and vegetables into sacks. “If they weren’t here, I guess I would do without.”
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