Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Food Pantry Filling Big Need; Agency's Workers Notice Increase in Clients

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Food Pantry Filling Big Need; Agency's Workers Notice Increase in Clients

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland, Times-Union staff writer

Not too long ago, Jewish Family and Community Services rarely had 300 people a month show up at its food pantry.

Now 500 to 600 come in monthly for canned goods and other staples.

"Some months we even have more than that," said Janet Hall, who operates the agency's food pantry. "We went 'wow' when we broke 300, and now that's nothing."

Faced with such rapidly rising demand, the agency is seeking donations of food and money from companies, individuals and civic groups, said Susan Lanahan, director of development.

The campaign, called "Feed a Needy Neighbor," is being conducted in March and April because a Rhode Island philanthropist will give a donation for contributions food banks receive during those months. Food items are counted at 50 cents each or 50 cents per pound.

The philanthropist, Alan Shawn Feinstein, is founder of the Center for a Hunger Free America at the University of Rhode Island and the Feinstein International Famine Center at Tufts University.

Agency officials attribute the increase to a downturn in the economy that has even seen some college graduates seeking help. Many people have been laid off, are between jobs or working a job that ran out. In addition, Hall said, there are more grandparents raising grandchildren and people fleeing domestic violence.

With welfare reform in effect, some clients have been going to the private sector in recent years to get their needs met, said Iris Young, the agency's executive director.

"There aren't a lot of abusers," Young said. "We see a lot of people who've fallen overboard and need a hand getting back up."

Hall said she is touched when people with diabetes or other medical conditions come in and say they can either buy insulin or food, but not both. …

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