The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

November 22, 2009

Food pantries see increased demand

DANVILLE — The federal government has classified millions of Americans as “food insecure,” according to a study done by Mathematica Policy Research.

The study, commissioned by Feeding America (the nation’s largest food bank network), found that 7 million people seek emergency food assistance every week.

There are numerous food pantries in the area that provide assistance.

Locally, the St. James Methodist Church Food Pantry has seen a 200 percent increase in families it helps since opening in February 2008.

“When we opened, the first month we helped 99 families,” said Sue Olson, coordinator of the pantry. “This past month we provided food to 303 families.”

The pantry, held on the third Wednesday of each month, is funded by donations from the St. James congregation, as well as others in the community. The food pantry is operated by members of the church.

To enroll in the food program, a family must not have an income greater than 150 percent of the federal poverty level as set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The 2009 federal poverty level for a family of four is $22,050.

“We require participants to sign a form stating they do not exceed that level and we require proof of family members,” Olson said. “That is usually through Social Security cards or medical cards for children.”

The amount of food and the variety of food available varies from month to month. The food pantry purchases its products through the Eastern Illinois Food Bank in Champaign.

Olson said the need for food assistance to area residents is increasing.

“The past month out of the 303 families we helped, 148 were new to our pantry,” she added.

According to Olson, there are no plans to change the location.

“We use the church basement and we usually receive our food shipments just prior to the date we distribute our food,” Olson said. “This way we do not need a lot of storage space.”

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