Cupboards bare at area food pantries

COVINGTON -- Workers with area food pantries say they are looking at a lot of bare shelves right now and they are hopeful community generosity will fill them in time for the holidays and beyond.

"We need a whole lot of everything. We don't turn anything away," said Rosalee Thompson who has worked at the Newton County Community Food Pantry for almost 23 years.

Thompson said all sorts of non-perishables such as canned goods, especially canned meats, spaghetti and spaghetti sauce and boxed meals are in short supply.

"We're really low right now. We need all the help we can get," she said.

Thompson as well as those with other food banks in the county had high praise for the efforts made by the Newton County School System with can drives in each school.

Thompson said the food from the schools is divided among the food banks and gives them a big boost, but there's a need for even more.

"We're busier than ever before. Very much so," she said, adding that there are about 100 households a month that seek assistance from the food bank. "So many people have been laid off. They get unemployment, but they're not used to having such a small income and so many are having to pay big house notes."

Thompson said many of her clients are referred by United Way, but those who need assistance can come by the food pantry on Monday or Thursday and have the necessary paperwork filled out.

The Newton County Community Food Pantry is located at 7125 Turner Lake Circle. The hours of operation are from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Mondays and Thursdays and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays. The phone number is 770-784-0037.

Service Center Director Jody Carver with the Salvation Army store at 5193 Washington St. said her agency assists between 50 to 80 households, or about 200 individuals, a month with food.

"We've not only seen an increase in demand for food, but we've seen an increase in people having to come back multiple times," Carver said.

She said the inventory of food at her location is especially low.

"I've never seen our pantry this low. I'm even out of corn. We always have plenty of green beans and corn, but we're even running out of those with just about 15 or 16 cans on the shelves," she said.

She said needed donations include "canned meats, noodles, rice, any kind of one-meal boxed foods, like Hamburger Helper, potatoes, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly and breakfast items."

She said her agency donates to the community Thanksgiving meal at Sharp Learning Center, but they also try to give food boxes to senior citizens who are shut-ins at Thanksgiving and Christmas. She said they usually try to assemble around 25 boxes for that purpose.

"Give as much as you can. Find a way to dig a little deeper," she said. "There are so many more people hurting than during the last years. You could be helping your neighbor. You never know who your contributions are going to."

She said the people helped have always been grateful, but she's seeing more emotion this year.

"We see a lot more tears because you've got a lot more people who were never in this position before," she said.

Donations of nonperishable food items can be made from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

Shirley Smith, director of Repairs at the Breach, located across the road from the Salvation Army store at 5120 Old Brown Bridge Road, said they're fast running out of food, as well.

"BB&T purchased $2,000 worth of food for us in September and it's just about depleted," she said. "It doesn't take long. We've had so many coming in due to the economy. It's bad. I've seen people asking for help I never thought would have to ask."

Smith said they're accepting donations of non-perishable food items or cash from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturdays.

"We're also gearing up for Christmas. They can bring any unwrapped toy for infants up to 14 years old for our Christmas program on Dec. 21. We give food for that, too. We let families come in and shop for free and give them the food. The kids get new toys."

Solid Rock Baptist Church also has Willing Helpers Food Pantry located at its facility at 8111 Brown Bridge Road. An $8 donation per box of food, with a maximum of two boxes, is requested. For more information on services offered there, call 678-342-3434.