The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 18, 2008

Food pantries report increased activity

Supply is not meeting the high demand

By ELLEN KOLMAN - Staff Writer - ekolman@starbeacon.com

The message is clear from Ashtabula County’s food pantries: Supply is not meeting the high demand.

The economic downturn, fuel prices, higher grocery bills and recent area layoffs are the reasons cited for the many new families coming to food banks for relief.

“Many of our families are saying they are employed but their budgets are stretched to the limit right now and buy-

ing food has become a problem,” said Diane Bradbury, director of the food bank at Country Neighbor in Orwell. “It is just unbelievable. We are also seeing more seniors in need.”

The Country Neighbor program operates a food bank that provides food and nonfood items to emergency food pantries, soup kitchens, nonprofit day cares and shelters in Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties. It distributes includes fresh, frozen and nonperishable food. Country Neighbor’s primary source from which to purchase food is the Cleveland Food Bank.

“Typically, we would serve 70 families a month, but last month it was up to 120. The food is going out as fast as we can get it in,” Bradbury said.

St. Joseph Catholic Church’s Neighbor to Neighbor Program on Lake Avenue in Ashtabula, which distributes nonperishable food items, concurs with that assessment, as does Tender Mercies Kitchen, a ministry of Pymatuning Community Church in Andover.

“The number of people has gone way up since last year,” said Elaine Engelmann, St. Joseph Church secretary. “Our parishioners, along with Mount Carmel’s, help us out with food drives.”

Tender Mercies Ministry, led by pastors Steven and Theresa Mickels, distributes frozen and nonperishable food twice a week.

“We are seeing new families every month, with an increase especially during this holiday season (well over 100 families), but we have been able to keep up so far because we are blessed with a giving community, with all kinds of youth group organizations and individuals having food drives,” said Esther Linch, Pymatuning Community Church secretary. “Our church budget spends a lot of money on the food we buy from Country Neighbor.”

The Lend a Hand Food Pantry, a ministry of Messiah Lutheran Church in Ashtabula, is experiencing an urgent need for more help with its increased food demands.

“The demand is outpacing our cash and foodstuffs. And without relief or more support from the community, we are facing cutting back distribution amounts, or closing,” said Kevin Meier, Lend a Hand Food Pantry’s director.

The Lend a Hand Food Pantry is open one day a month and distributes three days worth of emergency food to needy families or individuals.

Although food drives are always appreciated, Meier said a better use of funds is to donate cash because Country Neighbor has to purchase the food from the Cleveland Food Bank at which $5 will buy a case of canned goods instead of just a few from the grocery store.

Many of Ashtabula County’s food banks are funded by private local foundations, government programs, agencies and private donations.

Through individual and corporate donations, the United Way of Ashtabula County indirectly supports all of the county’s food banks because it supports Country Neighbor, said Randy Jones, United Way executive director.

“With the economy, food security is a big issue in our county. Our agency has given Country Neighbor $10,000 last year and the same amount this year,” Jones said. “One way to continue to address the increased demand for food pantry services is to give to our United Way.”

Area food bank in need of help this holiday season include:

n Country Neighbor, 39 S. Maple, Orwell, (440) 437-6311;

n Tender Mercies Kitchen, a ministry of Pymatuning Community Church, 6459 Route 7 S., Andover, (440) 293-7878;

n St. Joseph Catholic Church’s Neighbor to Neighbor Program, 3312 Lake Ave., Ashtabula, (440) 992-0330;

n The Lend a Hand Food Pantry, a ministry of Messiah Lutheran Church, 615 W. Prospect, Ashtabula. Contact Kevin Meier (440) 224-2574;

n Pierpont Presbyterian Church, 71 Route 7 S., Pierpont Township, (440) 577-1218;

n The Dream Center, 604 W. 57th St., Ashtabula, (440) 998-3732;

n GO Ministries, 408 W. 30th St., Ashtabula, (440) 992-9118;

n Manna Food Pantry, a ministry of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 89 E. Jefferson St., Jefferson, (440) 576-4671;

n Geneva Food Pantry, 72 W. Main St., Geneva, (440) 466-3048, Ext. 224;

n Conneaut Human Resources Center, 327 Mill St., Conneaut, (440) 593-5273; and

n New Hope Pentecostal Church, 5917 West Ave., Ashtabula. Contact Pastor Neroy Carter, (440) 224-2635.