Area food pantries see increased need, donations during holidays

News-DemocratDecember 21, 2013 

In the midst of the holiday bustle, area food pantries feel the rewards and stress of giving and receiving.

While metro-east food pantries report more donations during November and December, they also see more people in need utilizing their services.

"Well, it's the holidays and everybody, they come, they may not want to before, they want it to be a different day," said Debra Homyer, the manager at Community Care Center in Granite City. "More come at this time and it's cold, so it's just a different atmosphere at this time of year with the holidays."

Homyer said the food pantry received a boost in supply thanks to the Boy Scouts Scouting for Food and churches that hold food drives during this time of year.

"We are low," she said, mentioning the need for nonperishable food items like spaghetti, soups, macaroni and cheese, crackers, tuna, hamburger helper, and canned goods like green beans and corn.

The O'Fallon Community Food Pantry is still in need of turkeys and hams to give to people for Christmas dinners, said volunteer Tina Warren.

If you would like to contribute, they can be dropped off between 9 a.m. and noon Monday at the back of the O'Fallon Township Building, 801 E. State St.

"We get more donations during this time of year, because of the Boy Scout Drive," Warren said. "Summer months are usually the neediest months."

Director Jerry Messick said the Community Interfaith Food Pantry in Belleville is doing well on supplies, despite increased need.

"Our supplies are good this time of year, because this is the giving season and people are very, very generous between Thanksgiving and Christmas," he said. "So we're doing pretty good right now."

In November, Community Interfaith distributed groceries to 606 families, higher than the average of about 550 families during the rest of the year.

"It's a little higher around the holidays, because people are trying to work on their Christmas dinners and Thanksgiving dinners and so forth," he said.

He mentioned certain supplies the pantry always goes through quickly: macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, apple sauce, pasta sauce and any kind of soup.

"I'm so pleased with the support that we receive from the community," Messick said. "After the holidays, don't forget us. That's when the donations really drop off -- after Christmas."

The Fairview Heights Area Food Pantry is "hanging in there" this month, according to volunteer Sue Ganschinietz. "But we are in need of canned meats and pasta and chili. Those are the main deficits now."

Liz Vogt, who shops for the Fairview Heights Area Food Pantry, said it is in need of canned fruit, peanut butter and jelly, and pancake mix and syrup.

The pantry also relies on cash donations to buy perishable groceries like milk, butter and eggs.

Sister Patricia Bachman is in charge of the food pantry at Catholic Urban Programs.

"We are blessed," she said. "People are very good to us." But she said they're in need of canned meat, canned fruit, dry beans and spaghetti. They also need items they rarely receive in donations, like cereal, Jell-O mix and Ramen noodles.

"We're giving out food as fast as it's coming in," she said, adding, "but we have been blessed."

Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at mhasenstab@bnd.com or 618-239-2460.

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