HCM seeks food donations

Shelves are emptying fast as more people seek help
By Caroline Klapper | Apr 21, 2013
Photo by: Caroline Klapper HCM Volunteer Dottie Gross checks some cans of food on a mostly empty shelf in the food pantry. Because of a dramatic increase in the number of people seeking food assistance in recent weeks, HCM is requesting donations from the community.

A recent influx of people coming to Haywood Christian Ministries for food assistance has left the cupboards, or in this case, the shelves, almost bare.

“We’ve just seen an explosion in demand for food,” said HCM Assistant Director Rusty Wallace. “The result has been we have some shortages of some foods and some shelves are empty. We’re having some trouble, there’s no doubt about that.”

Volunteer Dottie Gross said the shelves are more than half empty, and she has seen more families than usual requesting food from the pantry.

“This is the lowest I’ve ever seen it,” she said, gesturing to the depleted stores.

Many of the people coming to HCM for food are being referred to the nonprofit by DSS, which works with several food banks in the area, including HCM, to make sure everyone in need gets help.

“We have always worked with community partners to make sure people’s needs are met,” DSS Director Ira Dove said. “We’re grateful for the support we’ve gotten in the county.”

Dove said there are two factors at play in the increase of people seeking help from local food banks. One is simply an increase of people needing assistance and the other is a new processing system in place that DSS is working with to try to get people entered into the benefits system.

“We’re facing historic highs in people using this system,” he said, explaining that there is a learning curve involved for the staff, who have to learn how everything works. “We have been learning a new system and converting our cases into a new system.”

That learning curve and the increased number of applications has led to increased processing times, which means some families are being referred to food banks for immediate help while DSS works on their case.

“We hope people that can afford to do so will support these (local food banks) because they really benefit the community,” Dove said.

HCM Executive Director John Berrong said the agency's goal is to help everyone who needs assistance, but he admits the influx of people coming to their food bank in the past several weeks has taken its toll.

“Ninety-eight percent of our workers are volunteers. It’s a strain to keep up and have an adequate supply of food,” he said.

HCM has tripled its food order to prepare for next week, but Wallace said they also rely on donations from people in the community.

“If people do have some food that they can donate now, that would be helpful,” he said.

Any nonperishable food items are accepted, but HCM is particularly in need of canned vegetables, peanut butter, jelly, cereal, canned meats, pasta and pasta sauce.

Wallace said he also encourages people to participate in the upcoming Mail Carriers’ Food Drive on Saturday, May 11. To give, simply place nonperishable food items on or in your mailbox or take them into your local post office. The food from the drive is divided up among HCM, the Salvation Army, the Open Door and the Community Kitchen.

For information, contact HCM at 456-4838. Donations can be brought to the back of the building at 150 Branner Ave. from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday or delivered to the front from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.