Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 1, 2013

Growing season can't satisfy food pantries' hunger

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Local food pantries have enjoyed an abundance of fresh produce from area farmers and backyard gardeners this year, but the growing season is on the wane and other food supplies are running low.

"The fresh fruits and vegetables are a blessing but our stocks of staples are extremely low," said Captain Daren Spencer of the Salvation Army Food Pantry in Traverse City.

Pantry shelves that provide sustenance to more than 130 families per month are about 70 percent empty, Spencer said. In addition, a meal program that feeds 100 to 150 people three times each week is largely prepared with donated foods.

The agency's fresh food program that accepts donations of fruits, vegetables and baked goods from area growers and businesses provides for as many as 100 recipients each day.

"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," he said.

Peanut butter, tuna, boxed meals and canned vegetables are among the items Spencer said are in most demand.

Donna DeVernay of the Mancelona Food Pantry said the 90 or so food boxes they give out each week have been stocked with fresh green beans and cucumbers, but once the fresh produce season ends, it will be harder to give families enough to eat.

"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 helped keep their pantry flush this summer.

"We also have not seen the growth in need that we have over the last three years or so. 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 reaping the benefits of a successful Frostbite Food Drive held last February.

"We have been buying food weekly to stock our shelves from money donations we received during the drive," said operations director Norm Bamberg. "We should be okay until our next food drive in about a month."

For information on donating, call the Salvation Army at 946-4644; Mancelona Food Pantry at 587-9606; BACN at 882-9544; or Father Fred Foundation at 947-2055 or other area food pantries.