Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — Parents who have hungry kids to feed every day know it all too well — it doesn’t take long for even the best-stocked pantry to suddenly look mighty bare. And filling the shelves again can strain a lean household budget.
Local food pantries that have enjoyed an abundance of fresh produce from area farmers and backyard gardeners this year are facing empty shelves as the growing season winds down and kids return to school.
“We are low on non-perishables, things that you would use to make a meal at home. This is especially critical with kids heading back to school,” said Capt. Daren Spencer of the Salvation Army Food Pantry in Traverse City.
Peanut butter, tuna, boxed meals and canned vegetables are among the items Spencer said are in most demand.
“The fresh fruits and vegetables are a blessing but our stocks of staples are extremely low,” he said.
The Salvation Army’s Pantry helps feed more than 130 families per month and a meal program feeds 100 to 150 people three times a week. The fresh food program, which accepts fruit, vegetables and baked goods from area growers and businesses, gives food for as many as 100 recipients each day.
It’s the same story for the Mancelona Food Pantry. Donna DeVernay said the 90 or so food boxes the pantry gives out each week have been stocked with fresh green beans and cucumbers, but it’s going to be harder to give families enough to eat once the growing season ends.
“We haven’t had to turn anyone away yet, but our supplies are low,” she said.
David Abeel, director of development at Benzie Area Christian Neighbors in Benzonia, said fresh food donations — and a slowdown in demand — have helped keep the pantry flush this summer.
“We had been seeing 10 to 20 to 30 percent growth each year and it seems to have leveled off,” he said.
The Father Fred Foundation pantry is still buying food with proceeds from a successful Frostbite Food Drive in February.
If all this talk of food pantries running low or seeing shortages on the horizon seems too soon in the season, the fact is that the number of people who need help grew to unprecedented numbers over the past five years of the Great Recession. And it’s going to take time for many of those people who were suddenly without work to find new jobs and re-establish a home life.
Until then, they’ll need help, and they’ll turn to local pantries and other agencies to get it. So when the call goes out, remember that for many, the recovery is still somewhere down the road.