07/27/09 — More local mouths to feed than ever

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More local mouths to feed than ever

By Laura Collins
Published in News on July 27, 2009 2:23 PM

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Bobby Dozier, left, and James Bryant Sr. of the Goldboro Epicurean Civic Club, serve meals at the Community Soup Kitchen of Goldsboro.

On Tuesday afternoon, Jason was sitting in a completely different chair than he was in January.

Nearly six months ago, Jason could peer over the computer screen on his desk and see his fellow colleagues. Tuesday, he could look up from his seat and see a packed room of people eating a free meal provided by the Community Soup Kitchen.

"No one expects to be here. This isn't part of anyone's five-year plan," he said.

Jason was hesitant to provide his last name and former employer in case, "by some miracle," the layoffs are reversed.

"Initially when I lost my job, it wasn't that bad. I had to make minor cutbacks like skipping an outing here or there," he said. "But now, six months later, it's ridiculous. Most days this is my only hot meal of the day. The rest consist of sandwiches, stuff like that."

Thanks to higher unemployment and more cutbacks in salaries and hours, business is booming at the city's soup kitchen and local food pantries.

The Community Soup Kitchen, which serves lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to noon, is on track to serving almost 10,000 more meals than it did in 2007 and about 1,000 more meals than last year.

"Every day is different, every month is different, but I believe it's the economy and job loss causing the increase," said Doricia Benton, director. "I also have a lot of children coming now with (school) out. We've had children here in the summer before, but not like this."

The soup kitchen is on track to average about 94 meals per day this month, which would be a record high.

But the Soup Kitchen is not the only site seeing its numbers increase -- as well as the need for donations.

The HGDC Community Crisis Center serves food Monday through Friday.

Robert Baymon, 59, said he goes to the Crisis Center "just about every day they're open." Baymon is not currently working because of disability, and said he has been "getting the run-around" trying to get aid. He added that he has seen the population at the Crisis Center increase since he started coming.

"They'll be packing it in here sometimes. With the economy, people have been losing their jobs. It's affecting a lot of people, and they may not have anywhere else to go," he said.

Volunteers have seen about a 60-70 percent increase in attendance at both the breakfasts, lunches and at the food pantry since the beginning of 2008, said Carolyn Buffalo, secretary. She said there has also been a shift in the clientele from mostly single men to families.

"Because of the economy, there has been a loss of jobs and income, and people not being able to obtain jobs," she said.

She added the result has been a double-edged sword.

"We are funded with donations and contributions," she said. "We have seen a decrease (in both) also because of the economy. People are not giving as freely because everyone has money that is probably coming in a smaller percentage. Therefore, giving to charities has probably taken a back seat."

She said the lack of funding also extends to grants, which have been harder to get because agencies have reduced grant amounts or aren't excepting applications from new non-profits.

Both the Soup Kitchen and the Crisis Center are accepting food or money donations. For more information on how to donate, contact the Soup Kitchen at 731-3939 or the Crisis Center at 734-6836.