By Magen McCrarey
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Since April there have been 13 truckloads of government food commodities delivered to Come-Unity Cooperative Care (CCC) food pantry on South Dixie Street. In past years, that’s the amount they would have received in a single month. And the local non-profit assistance agency is beginning to feel the economic pinch.
Families in need that visit the pantry come from all over Laurel County, from Corbin to East Bernstadt. Last month, the pantry served 1,045 adults, 565 children and 83 single parent families.
“Our client list is growing everyday,” said Linda Gilreath, executive director of CCC. “We know most of our clients on a first name basis; they’re like family. It’s like family coming to you and asking for help and we want to be able to help.”
Twice a month, CCC purchases $600 worth of food commodities from God’s Food Pantry in Lexington. But government-issued food commodities, provided through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), are low, and CCC has dipped into both their reserve food supplies, which are now sparse, and bank account in order to assist local low-income families.
Government food commodities include items such as cereal, beef and potatoes.
However, the only commodities available this month were diced tomatoes and corn flakes. “that was it,” Gilreath said.
It’s not a surprise, as commodities have been few and far between since April.
“Food pantries that are relying on commodities (only) are closing because they have no food to give out,” she continued. “Fortunately, we are able to buy a lot of food so we can at least make a decent box to give out. Still, we’re going through bunches of money.”
According to God’s Food Pantry, TEFAP food commodities should have picked back up in October. The pantries were told the government will provide $170 million worth of meat varieties such as pork, lamb, chicken and catfish starting this month and continuing through March 2013.
According to TEFAP guidelines, a household of two with an annual income of $19,669 is considered at poverty level and eligible for commodities. That is a weekly income of $379.
“It’s very important that we be able to help them, and I’m not sure how they would survive actually without it,” Gilreath said.
Wednesdays at CCC are food pick-up days for Laurel residents on TEFAP. Residents trade in food stamps for commodities and other groceries provided by CCC.
Last Wednesday was just like any other with families packed inside the building, courteous to stay in a single-file line for those who began waiting as early as 7:30 a.m. The food is distributed at 9 a.m.
Don Stievers, a volunteer bookkeeper for CCC, said the pantry is clearly not providing nearly as much as is needed.
“A lot of times the shelves are almost bare, and when they are…some way or another something comes in the next day, and you can provide for people,” Stievers said.
When a donation arrives at just the right time, Gilreath gives the credit to God.
“Over the summer and last spring, we’ve supplied the most (food boxes) we ever have,” she said. “The content in the boxes is lower and the numbers (who need it) are higher.”
“We’re the central agency where everyone knows to come and we’re affiliated with all the churches. This is where people know to come to get help and we just want to be prepared when they do come,” she continued.
For more information about how to donate, call 606-864-2351 or visit www.come-unity.org.