Summer Shortage at Local Food Pantries

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By Amy Fox
By Randy Livingston

BENTON-- The shelves are getting bare at many local food pantries. But, with unemployment high and grocery prices rising, there's still a great need for assistance in the community.

The Benton-West City Ministerial Alliance is one of the pantries short on supplies. The pantry helps more than 900 people a month. Volunteers say at this point, they're just trying to take it one day at a time.

Phones ring off the hook at the Benton-West City Ministerial Alliance. But, there's not enough supply to meet the growing demand in the community.

Benton-West City Ministerial Alliance Pantry Director Vicki Seagle said, "As you can see, the shelves are quite bare and same thing in the back warehouse.  People have a tendency to forget us during the summer months."

During the Christmas season, Seagle stocks her shelves high, but by mid-June, inventory starts running low.  In the last month alone, the food pantry helped more than 900 people.

"These are increasing numbers," explained Seagle. "Every month we see 15-­25 new families coming into our food pantry, seeking aid."

"We call this the God mart where food is free and people are friendly. And, I'm going to shop for a family of two," said Kathy Page, Benton-West City Ministerial Alliance Volunteer.

One by one, volunteers fill carts, even if it's done a little differently, due to shortages.  

Page said, "We usually put in two cans of pork and beans, but we're out of pork and beans, so we will substitute later down the line."

Families are given a grocery voucher to supplement what the food pantry doesn't have, so they still can have a week's worth of meals.

"We were very fortunate, we were able to substitute a lot of items this time, so the only things they really need to go to the store to get is really milk, eggs, and bread," said Page.
  
Last month, the pantry spent about $5,000 to offset the lack of donations. 

Seagle said, "So, that means our food costs go even higher because we are not getting the donations in which to give to the people before we send them to the grocery store."

As more people need assistance, Seagle and her volunteers will continue to help out, as long as they have food to share.

The Dollar General Store in Benton is helping out. They've set up boxes at their store, seeking food donations

The food pantry in Benton is normally open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  At this time, they've cut hours and are no longer open on Fridays.

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