Last week’s column included news of an emergency food shortage at the Good Samaritan pantry brought on by requests for food assistance occurring at a level never before seen at the ministry.
This week, Good Samaritan reported the shortage of food and high demand on its pantry is continuing and reiterated its request for food donations and monetary contributions direly needed for bulk food purchases.
“We have never seen so many people lined up for food,” Good Samaritan Director Sarah Wells said Wednesday.
Last week, the ministry received food requests from 153 households between Monday morning and noon Wednesday and 322 food requests the entire week. In a single day this week, the ministry received 108 telephone requests for help with food.
“It’s never been that (high) before,” Wells said.
She cited as a contributing factor an across-the-board cut in food stamps that occurred in November that was especially difficult for low-income seniors who typically receive less than $16 a month in food stamps.
“There are more (food stamp) cuts coming that haven’t happened yet,” she said. “We have to remember we do need to be our neighbors’ keepers when it comes to going hungry. We need to be asking each other how we can help our neighbors. Right now, it would be wonderful to just have soups and crackers to deliver to our seniors to eat now.”
In a notice sent to area media outlets Jan. 21, the ministry described the need for food seen since the first of the year as “a whole new challenge” and the rate at which its food pantry was being depleted as “alarming.”
“We have families coming in for food on a scale that we are not really used to seeing and Good Samaritan needs the community to pull together to meet this need head-on,” Good Samaritan staff member Adam Hoover said in that notice.
Wells said Wednesday that while the ministry has received a wonderful response to last week’s appeal from people who brought donated food items, monetary donations for direly needed bulk food purchases came in a much smaller number.
Because the ministry was closed Wednesday due to poor road conditions early in the day, it will begin work early today, packing food boxes for delivery to seniors and others who are out of food and are unable to get there. Volunteers to help pack and deliver food boxes will be needed beginning at 6:30 a.m. The ministry will open its doors to others in need at 9 a.m. and expects its pantry to empty by 3.
The most needed food items continue to be canned soups and pasta, dry cereal, peanut butter, dry pasta and sauce, boxed macaroni and cheese, canned vegetables, instant mashed potatoes, dry beans and sliced bread.
Wells said higher electricity bills that are coming due now are also compounding the need in many area households, and the lack of heating fuel, particularly among seniors in outlying counties who cannot pay in advance to have their tanks refilled, is becoming more widespread.
To meet the immediate need for heat, the ministry purchased and delivered six infrared heaters this week while it awaits grant funding for housing and utilities awarded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Tennessee Housing and Development Agency for 2013 that has yet to be released.
“Food and heat are essential. We need to do some bulk (food) buying. We’ve been writing grants like crazy and trying to find new ways to provide,” Wells said.
Food donations may be dropped off Monday through Saturday at the Good Samaritan building at 100 N. Roan St. Monetary donations earmarked for food may be made online at goodsamjc.org or by mail to P.O. Box 2441 Johnson City, TN 37605. For more information on how to help, call 928-1958.
If there is a need or a project in your neighborhood the Good Neighbor column can assist with, contact Sue Guinn Legg at firstname.lastname@example.org, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605 1717 or 929-3111, ext. 335.