Food pantry sees increase in number of families needing help

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The holiday season is not looking so good for some area residents. According to Janet Mills, director of the Cassville Community Food Pantry, operated out of the United Methodist Church in Cassville, more new families are requesting assistance this month than ever before, along with those who have traditionally utilized the food pantry services.

"I don't know what the underlying reasons are," Mills said. "It could be seasonal workers have been laid off due to the weather, or maybe industry lay-offs are sending more people to the unemployment line. Whatever the reasons, we are seeing more people here at the food pantry than we have previously."

Last month, the pantry assisted 400 families, comprised of 1,000 people.

"That's 15 to 20 percent over average," Mills said. "We saw 50 families in the first day we were open this month. Typically, we only see 25 to 35 families. There is a sense of greater urgency now, especially among those who have seen their supplemental food benefits reduced.

"People are experiencing anxiety over how to meet their needs," Mills said.

Although the food pantry is supported by a number of community outreach programs and through the Ozarks Food Harvest, the sheer numbers of people seeking assistance can sometimes strain its resources.

"We also have a federal commodities distribution once a month, and the Senior Food Box program, which is full at this time," Mills said.

Programs are limited to individuals and families that meet federal poverty guidelines.

"We urge anyone to come in," Mills said. "We know people wouldn't be asking for help if they weren't struggling."

Mills is grateful for the community support the pantry receives each year.

"I think when people give to the food pantry, it's more personal somehow," she said. "They know someone is going to eat the can of corn they have donated."

The food pantry operates smoothly due to the volunteers who diligently assist with the sorting, paperwork and distribution of food items.

"We can always use more volunteers," Mills said. "If someone doesn't want to interact with people, there are plenty of other jobs they can do, whether it's paperwork or sorting food items. It's a one to three hour commitment a month."

The food pantry is open from 9 to 11:15 a.m. Monday through Thursday.

For more information about the services offered at the Cassville Community Food Pantry or to volunteer, call Mills at 847-2328.

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