Damon Smith showed up at the Salvation Army yesterday with a grocery cart, hoping to be able to tote some food home to his family.
He left with the cart empty.
Mr. Smith, 42, was among the Salvation Army's new or repeat customers who found the food pantry at 620 North Erie St. closed.
Maj. Clyde Jones, the area service coordinator, announced yesterday that the food bank closed temporarily because it couldn't meet the day's needs.
"We just exhausted the food supply we have," Major Jones said.
He said it was the first time he's seen it happen in Toledo.
"We just felt that we had to alert the public that we're facing a struggle," Major Jones said.
The next shipment of food, about $14,000 worth, is due the end of next week, though he was working on getting some help from the United Way of Greater Toledo to reopen sooner.
He said donations to the food pantry have dwindled while de-mand among the area's poor has increased.
"Due to an increase in families seeking food assistance, we are handing out more food than ever before," Major Jones said.
Normally, the Salvation Army provides free food to qualifying families 1 to 3 p.m. daily.
The Army receives funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Major Jones said FEMA's funding so far in 2007 has been steady, but a food and donation drive held in April and May fell short.
Last year, the drive generated 36,000 items of food and about $32,000 in cash. This year, about 20,000 items were given and between $14,000 and $15,000 in money was received.
Mr. Smith said he and his fiancee live in the Greenbelt apartments, nearby on Cherry Street. He said they have three young children.
"We only get a certain amount of food stamps and, by the end of the month, it's gone," Mr. Smith said. The next allotment is Sept. 7. "We don't have to come over here too much. When we do come, they help us out."
A 32-year-old mother of two children ages 3 and 6 seeking food yesterday said she didn't know where she'd turn next.
"Basically, it sucks," said Lorie Lewis, who lives in the Lagrange neighborhood. "I don't know what to do about my kids. I get food stamps on the 7th, and I'm in a hot spot right now."
She also has her mother living with her.
Roxanne Wright, 35, of Belmont Avenue, said she's in rehabilitation after serious medical problems forced her to quit her job as a home health aide in a group home. She expects to go back to work in six months, but is struggling to keep her baby and two older daughters fed.
"I've got stuff in my house. I just want to make sure I don't run out," Ms. Wright said.
She too is counting on food stamps that will arrive the end of next week.
The Army provides as much as a family needs to feed each member three times a day for four days. A recipient can collect that much food four times a year.
Major Jones said about 500 to 600 people are helped weekly.
Only nonperishable food is provided, such as spaghetti and sauce, cereal, jelly, peanut butter, and canned foods.
He said a typical bag is packed with items that can be combined into meals, such as noodles, canned tuna, and mayonnaise.
The U.S. Census reported this week that Toledo's poverty rate declined from 2005 to 2006.
"It's not anything we're seeing," Major Jones said. "We're seeing a lot of the underemployed, a lot of the working poor, people holding down two jobs. This is very scary to us because so many folks depend on us."
Other providers of emergency food agree that demand has not lessened. "There's a huge increase in the amount of people needing food," said Teri Garcia, director of Good Samaritan Outreach Center, 1108 Broadway.
"We get calls every day from people who are not already in the system, their first time looking for food," Ms. Garcia said. "Every day somebody new is coming in for food."
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