Recognizing a growing need and trying to better accommodate those who work during the day, the Banks-Jackson Food Bank is now open for two hours on Monday nights.
“We have a lot of people come in who say they have a problem getting here because they work,” explained Patti Bearden, food bank manager. “We wanted to give an opportunity for people who work during the day to come in during the evening.
Monday evening hours are 6 to 8. The food bank, located at 111 Atlanta Avenue in Commerce, is also open from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
And in spite of a slowly improving economy, the need as expressed by people coming to the food bank is on the rise.
“We are definitely feeding more and more people,” Bearden said. “We’re feeding up to 37 families a day now, probably close to 10,000 pounds of food a month.”
By comparison, when Bearden began working with the food bank last summer, the average was about six families a day.
Some of the increase, Bearden recognizes, is because the food bank will now serve people every 30 days as opposed to twice a year.
“There is a pretty big repeat,” she said, “people who come in in exactly 30 days. Their money’s just not making ends meet, and there are a lot of people who don’t get their food stamps renewed (required every six months), and it takes two or three months for them to get reinstated because it’s hard for them to get through to DFCS.”
Families are also struggling with cuts to the food stamp program to as low as $36 a month.
“The larger families, I feel like food stamps must make ends meet, but a lot of smaller families come in and say they’re cut to $36 a month,” Bearden commented.
“The average amount people coming in the door say they make is $743 a month,” she added. “That’s scary to me. That’s not their food stamp benefit, that’s their Social Security check or their disability check.”
In addition, USDA has reduced the number of items it gives to the regional food bank, which is where the Banks-Jackson Food Bank purchases the bulk of its food.
“They used to give about nine items a month, and we’re down to five,” Bearden said. “That means we have to have that much more from the donated side.”
For the full story, see the Feb. 26 issue of The Commerce News.