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Increasing numbers strain food panties
RUMFORD/MEXICO -- In the wake of the recent economic crisis, one in five children across America can't count on having enough to eat this Thanksgiving and throughout the year.
The thought of trying to grasp what is meant to go hungry means asking not about that gnawing feeling in the pit of the stomach shared by the hungry and crash-dieters alike, but about the absence of access to that food in order to live healthily.
A person is considered food insecure if they lack access to enough food to ensure adequate nutrition. The U.S. Drug Administration estimates that 14.7 percent of Maine households, or approximately 200,000 individuals, are food insecure. This state ranks 18th in the nation and second in New England in terms of food insecurity.
At the food pantry of Praise Assembly of God Church in Rumford and the GRAMPA food pantry in Mexico, their resources are increasingly strained with an increase in families per week seeking help.
"Without question, the lack of food in many homes across the River Valley is still a problem," noted Pastor Justin Thacker of the Praise Assembly of God Church. And with the increase of families at their food pantry, he noted, "we are seeing many new families come to our area this fall who are in need of food and other benevolence needs. We are seeing about 10 families more per month compared to this time last year."
At GRAMPA, Director Sue Byam said that from Jan. 1 to the end of September, "we have served 33 more households, totaling 180 more people then in 2011. We continue to see households that have never used the pantry before."
"We will be able to stay open throughout the winter, although the amount of food we are able to give out may be decreased from what we have been able to give in the past," she noted.
The primary reason for the food shortfall is that the Good Shepherd Food-Bank in Lewiston has seen a decline of salvage food of 70 percent from 2006 to the beginning of 2012.
"It is putting a strain on food pantries because the number of people needing help is increasing steadily. It is making it necessary to find other sources to supply the pantry which is much more costly," noted Byam.
"This greatly affects all pantries in the state. In the past they have offered turkeys at 13 cents per pound at Thanksgiving. This year, there will be no turkeys available."
"This means that the only Thanksgiving baskets provided will be made up from food that is donated. We cannot afford to purchase these items and be able to keep the pantry stocked. It is important to try to stock the pantry through the winter months rather then supply a holiday meal," she said.
Byam added, "We are getting some donations which we are very grateful for, but it's going to take a lot this winter to keep us open. I did notice that Hannaford has a display of their 'Helping Hands' boxes which they sell for $10 a box and donate to the local pantries. This is an easy way for people to purchase staple items which we are in so need of."
As far as donations to the pantries, Thacker said "Canned goods and bread are always in need. However, right now out great need is frozen meats, hot dogs, hamburger, small packs of chicken. Good Shepherd Food Bank, like many food banks in New England, has a shortage of food (packaged items and canned foods) and frozen meats."
People can donate food directly to the church (89 Congress St. in Rumford) or call 364-3856 and they will pick up any donated food. Financial donations are always appreciated. Their mailing address is P.O Box 269, Rumford, ME 04276.
The Praise Assembly of God Church food pantry is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon or by appointment.
Byam said the GRAMPA food pantry is need of jams/jelly, canned vegetables, canned fruits, canned baked beans,soups, peanut butter, canned meats/fish and anything else that has good nutrients and can be kept on the shelf.
Anyone wishing to send money may do so by making their checks to GRAMPA Food Pantry and send them to GRAMPA Food Pantry, 163 Main St., Mexico, ME 04257.
GRAMPA, located in the basement of the Green Church on Main Street, is open Mondays from 2-3:30 p.m., Wednesdays from 6-7:30 p.m. and Fridays from 9-11 a.m.
Pull out quote:
"If there ever was a time where the citizens of Rumford needed to come together and help one another it is now."
Pastor Justin Thacker, Praise Assembly of God Church