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Published: Wednesday, 9/30/2009

Food for thought in Oregon

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

By the end of June, Food for Thought already had provided free food to more families than all of last year, with the monthly average doubling to 1,000.

The Oregon food pantry housed in space donated by New Harvest Christian Church, 3540 Seaman Rd., helped feed 1,143 families last month alone.

And while food and other donations are down as the economy continues to be troubled, Food for Thought is hopeful that will change in coming months since they normally are down in summer, said Tana Schiewer, executive director.

People who never sought out such help before now are coming in to the food pantry, which is open four days a week, because of job losses and other situational poverty factors, she said.

"The need keeps going up, and it's definitely straining our reserves," Ms. Schiewer said. "All of the sudden, we have many more people in need than we had in the past."

Various food pantries and other such services on the east side are balancing tightened resources with increased demand - and hoping donations will increase before the holidays.

Helping Hands of St. Louis Food Pantry in East Toledo has a lot of donated produce now, as well as day-old baked goods and other items from businesses, said Sue Shrewsbery, administrative assistant.

But the church will have to start stocking up on groceries, especially nonperishables, in October and November, she said.

While 120 to 130 clients sought help from the food pantry a couple of years ago, patronage has gone up to at least 175 clients a month, Ms. Shrewsbery said.

The food pantry is open two days a week.

"It's a lot of new clients, people who never had to utilize the service before," Ms. Shrewsbery said.

The church's soup kitchen, open three days a week, also is seeing increased demand at certain times, Ms. Shrewsbery said.

Jerusalem Township Food Pantry in November will embark on its annual plea for monetary donations in November, which will help determine the monthly service's fate for the upcoming year.

While the overall number of families needing help has not increased much, there are different people seeking help at the food pantry, said Richard Hozak, president of the food pantry's board.

"Our biggest problem is getting food," Mr. Hozak said. "We can only afford [to buy] so much, and so much of the free stuff has dropped off."

Ms. Schiewer of Food for Thought said that while the food pantry can get a seemingly unlimited supply of yogurt, for example, getting nonperishable food such as cereal, pasta, and canned vegetables is harder.

Food drives such as those done by local companies including Johnson Controls Inc., Owens-Illinois Inc., and Yark Automotive are a big help, as are those at New Harvest and community organizations, she said.

"It's difficult for us to get ahold of good food," Ms. Schiewer said.



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