Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Food Banks Need Food Large Holiday Demand Depletes Supply

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Food Banks Need Food Large Holiday Demand Depletes Supply

Article excerpt

The 34-year-old Mandarin woman, well dressed but newly

unemployed, was somewhat frantic at Jacksonville's food bank on

a recent afternoon.

"I've lost my job. I've lost my J-O-B," Stephanie, withholding

her last name, told a food bank employee. "I'm serious. I just

need a little help."

Stephanie is typical of the record numbers of people who have

sought food bank meals through the holidays and in the weeks

since, food bank officials said. They're not the chronically

homeless, or even people who have used the food bank before.

They're people in "sudden crisis."

Despite huge amounts of recent donations, massive demands

through the holidays have left the city's food bank and food

pantries low on supplies, officials said.

Food bank officials attributed the demands to welfare reform --

the fact that many people recently off welfare are in low-paying

jobs and are without food stamps or other assistance.

Numbers of people served at the Second Harvest pantry reflect

the start of welfare reform in the fall of 1996. The numbers

increased from 825 in September 1996 to 1,591 in September 1997,

from 756 in October 1996 to 1,986 in October 1997 and from 752

in November 1996 to 1,868 in November 1997, food bank statistics

show.

At the pantry, Stephanie and her 5year-old daughter received

some bread, Danish pastries, rice, tea and other commodities,

but no canned tuna, beef stew, chili or other meat products.

"We like to give them at least some sort of protein," said Tim

Davis, executive director of the Second Harvest Food Bank of

Northeast Florida.

"We couldn't even give her a can of tuna, the least amount of

protein we usually give people," he said. "That shows how low we

are. We always need donations, but we really need them now."

As the city's primary food bank, Second Harvest supplies social

service agencies' pantries, which distribute directly to needy

individuals and families. Second Harvest also runs a pantry at

its Jessie Street warehouse.

Food drives by the Jacksonville Jaguars, radio station WFYV

(104.5 FM) and Chili's Grill & Bar brought in about 50,000

pounds of food, a record amount for the holiday season. But even

that was used up, Davis said.

Demand at the Arlington Community Services food bank over the

holidays was 20 percent higher than in 1996, said Executive

Director Kathy Womack.

"It's primarily due to changes in the welfare system," she

said. "If you're employed in a low-wage job and you lose that

job, you have nothing to fall back on. Some of our people are

homeless, but the majority are residents who have suddenly

fallen on hard times."

Most people will continue paying their rent or mortgage and

utility bills, and they'll keep putting gasoline in the car,

Davis said. …

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