By: Courtney Harrington
With Thanksgiving only a few short days away, people all around the area are trying to get ready for their typical annual feast. However, with the economy being as bad as it is today, many households have to turn to food shelters such as the Second Harvest Food Bank and Loaves & Fishes just to simply have a meal on Thanksgiving Day.
When Thanksgiving rolls around, business in theMecklenburgCounty’s network of food pantries shoots up. This time of year is typically the busiest week for the 19 pantries around the area. The pantries scattered throughout the county work to provide people with a week’s worth of groceries for free. With 60 percent of the pantries’ clients being without a job for at least a year, the food shelters are struggling to keep their shelves stocked.
At Loaves & Fishes, shelves are empty, and compared to last year, the food stock is down by at least 50 percent. Along with the drop in food supply, pantries have seen a 24 percent increase in clients within the past couple of weeks. “We are not going to close any pantries, but we are facing the greatest challenge of our 36 years of distributing food,” Beverly Howard, executive director of Loaves & Fishes, expressed. “We spent $35,000 to buy food for our pantries nine days ago because we didn’t have food. That’s the most we’ve ever spent for one week’s food.”
One of the most highly sought out products that clients look for is powdered milk. Of the $35,000 that Loaves & Fishes spent on food, $9,000 went towards powdered milk alone. It is such a popular product by clients of the pantries because it is expensive, nutritious and usually in short supply. “Powdered milk is powdered gold,” Howard stated. Of the 19 pantries around the area, Loaves & Fishes is the largest food system within the state. They were able to provide food for roughly 110,336 people, along with more than 53,000 children.
Fortunately, the food pantries are able to stock their shelves chiefly with the help of donated food collected through food drives hosted by businesses, scout troops, schools and congregations. Over the past few years, the pantries have helped mostly people who are employed but did not earn enough money to pay all his/her bills. Now, with the economy so rough, 64 percent of clients are forced to live with other people. “This tells me people are increasingly unable to provide private shelter for their families. If they are not able to even pay rent on a basic apartment, they certainly don’t have resources to buy nutritious food,” Howard said. Many of the clients have to pick between buying food or paying rent, utility or medical bills.
With Thanksgiving Day sneaking up, take a minute to think of those who may not get a feast this year. By donating a dollar, the pantries will be able to provide seven pounds of food for people who ago without it on a daily basis. Spread the love and have a great Thanksgiving!