Food Pantries Strained by the Cold

Posted 03/18/14

“When it’s cold, you want to make sure you have enough food in the house”, says Renae Brame of Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministries Food Pantry in Black Mountain. “When bad weather comes, people rush to the grocery store, well, we are like a grocery store for some.”

Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministries is not alone in feeling the pressure of cold weather. Here and across the nation, food banks and pantries are noticing the strain that extreme weather places on vulnerable populations. An article from npr explores the topic further:

Anti-hunger organizations say the unusually low temperatures are sending heating bills through the roof, cutting into the food budgets of many families struggling to get by. That means food pantries are bracing for more hungry people from their communities coming through the door in the weeks to come.

“By next week, I expect we’ll see record levels of people coming into our member agencies,” Ken Kupchick, director of marketing and development for the River Valley Regional Food Bank in Fort Smith, Ark., tells The Salt.

In the short term, Kupchick’s food bank is scrambling to make sure the 200 or so food pantries that serve the hungry in the surrounding communities know to call the food bank if they run out of supplies. His bank, which buys food with cash donations and rescues food from chains like Wal-Mart and Darden Restaurants, can help pantries restock essentials when they run out.

Kupchick says that ever since some of the funds for food stamps that went to families in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program expired in November, the pantries his group supplies have seen a 6.5 percent increase in the number of clients coming in.

Ross Fraser, spokesman for the national organization Feeding America, says food banks all over the country are stretched pretty thin, but it’s the ones in rural areas that are really struggling to serve a far-flung population of hungry people.

For people who aren’t regular donors to their local food bank and want to help, Fraser recommends donating money over food. “Food banks can buy food in huge quantities at a lower price — we can get three cans of [beans] for what a consumer pays for one.”

If you do want to take food to the local food bank, Fraser recommends canned meats, such as tuna, chicken or fish, as well as peanut butter. These are among the most expensive foods with the longest shelf lives — so retailers are less likely to donate them. Soups and stews, rice, pasta and oatmeal are also welcome, Fraser says.

(Excerpted from Food Stamp Cuts, Cold Weather Put Extra Strain On Food Pantries
by Eliza Barclay. Read the full npr article here. )

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