10/07/13 — More need in county

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More need in county

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on October 7, 2013 1:46 PM

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Volunteer Corey Foster warms up donated pizza at the Community Soup Kitchen of Goldsboro Friday. Foster, who works in the kitchen at McCall's restaurant, volunteers one or two days each week at the soup kitchen.

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Ann Langston stocks the food pantry shelves at United Church Ministries. The organization has seen an increase in people coming in for food over the past year.

The reasons vary -- loss of a job, a cut in hours, a glitch in the food stamp system, on a fixed income -- but the result is the same, more people in Wayne County are hungry and need food.

Local food pantries have almost emptied their shelves recently because of increases in the number of families and individuals in need.

The Community Soup Kitchen is serving anywhere from 30 to 50 more meals a day.

United Church Ministries director Mary Fail is seeing many new faces at her food pantry.

"Some tell us they're not getting food stamps because of a backup," she said. "We get people who have lost their job or their hours have been severely cut. Some haven't worked for a while and others lost their extra unemployment. And sometimes street people come in and ask for food."

Ms. Fail said over the past two years, the number of people who need food has doubled -- and she says it is going to get worse with the holidays coming.

Because more people are coming in for food, United Church Ministries has had to go from giving out two or three bags of food per family to just one.

"We just don't have it to give out," Ms. Fail said. "We give them things like peanut butter, jelly, cereal, crackers, macaroni and cheese, canned foods, side dishes -- enough to make a meal. Sometimes we have chicken and chicken products, turkey and turkey products and bacon in our freezer that we can give out."

The North Carolina Poverty Coalition normally serves about 100 families during the two days a week it gives out food. But recently that number has jumped to between 300 and 400. And this past week, the Coalition gave out all the food it had.

Executive director Spencer Phillips said each family gets four bags containing canned goods, vegetables, meats and other staples.

"A lot of them say they're out of work," he said. "Some are physically sick. And a lot of it is elderly people on Social Security trying to stretch their dollars as far as they can.

"Especially over the last month or so, more people are coming for food saying they're not getting their food stamps because of a glitch in the system. If not for the food these people get here, they'd probably be sitting at home going hungry."

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul at St. Mary Church has also seen more need.

Director Pat O'Connell said the main reason has been the delay in processing food stamp applications. And when food stamps are late or have been reduced, people need help from elsewhere.

"Three or four years ago we thought we'd see a dramatic increase because of people losing their jobs and their hours being cut," she said. "But not so much then. But the past year, we've seen a lot more people needing help with food."

Some families looking for food from Society of St. Vincent de Paul have lost their jobs.

"They don't have money they would otherwise have had to pay their entire rent or electric bill," Ms. O'Connell said. "They are seeking food because they have no cash to go to the grocery store this week to get food."

Recently, the Salvation Army has had to turn hungry people away, but thanks to generous donations from the community, its shelves are full for now.

"But it's always the same story," Lt. Julie Igleheart said. "We can always use more. And with Christmas time coming up and other things that are going on, I see that in the future, there will be a need for more food. The need is always there for food for those less fortunate."

It's the same story at the Soup Kitchen, where the number of meals served in the past two months has gone up from between 100 to 120 a day to between 130 and 170 a day, director Doricia Benton said.

"We're having a lot of new people coming in," she said. "We also have lot of older individuals and families with young children. We're also seeing newly unemployed people.

"Some of those coming in have jobs, but this is a supplement to that. They don't make enough and need extra resources so they come here to the Soup Kitchen."

Ms. Benton is also seeing people coming in for a hot meal because of the glitches in the food stamp system.

"Some individuals and families have not received any for a month or two, which has had an impact on food resources not just here at the Soup Kitchen, but also on the food pantries," she said.

Although the need is greater around the holidays, it's still there throughout the year. People are not hungry just at Thanksgiving or Christmas, Ms. Benton said.

"A lot of the people who come to the Soup Kitchen thank us for being here because a lot of them say they would go hungry or have to go into dumpsters to eat," she said.