At the August distribution, 300 families were served. Ninety were served at the November distribution.
“I’m raising two granddaughters,” said a 65-year-old female recipient at the November distribution. “Their mother is on drugs.”
A 40-year-old woman said the food would help stretch her very tight budget.
“When you go looking for full-time work, all you can find is part time,” she said. She’s resorted to driving a taxi while trying to gain some technical skills at the Ashtabula County Joint Vocational School.
“The economy is bad,” said a young woman. “It’s hard. A lot of people who normally would not need it are needing it now.”
Individuals are allowed one food pantry order per month. Eligibility is determined by household size and income. For a family of two, the cap is $27,379.
“I generally find that people are not even close to what a family of two can make,” says Alice Hardin, service center coordinator at the Ashtabula Salvation Army. “They laugh when I show them that number. They say, ‘I wish we could make that kind of money.’”
The Lake Avenue service center will place 36,000 plates of food before soup-kitchen users during a typical 12-month period. They will provide another 13,000 meals from the food pantry and assist 1,115 persons with utility assistance: gas and electric only. Another 369 persons will receive help with prescription services. Hardin says a particularly disturbing trend is the increase in seniors seeking help. Crunched by rising fuel and medication costs, they are coming into the soup kitchen and food pantry discouraged and confused. Accustomed to paying their own way, they face the pride-piercing task of asking for assistance.
“They’ve never done this before, and they don’t know where to ask for help. They’ve never done a food pantry request. But there is stress in their budgets. I had one whose $229 propane order went to $289. That little bit of difference knocked their whole budget completely out.”