Social Services, Second Harvest and local food pantries join effort
by Susan Akers
The current economic situation makes it hard for some people to put food on the table and also pay bills. As of July 29, Union County’s unemployment rate stands at 9.4 percent, up from 8.7 percent a month ago. Statewide, the unemployment rate is 10.4 percent, with the national rate hovering around 9.2 percent. Many people are still unemployed and for some unemployment benefits have run out. With so many needing help, the Department of Agriculture recently made a change in the way they distribute food.
At one point, the supplies came to Union County’s Department of Social Services. Now they go to the Second Harvest Food Bank, which in turn uses local food pantries to get the supplies out to those who need help.
“We appreciate the community’s patience while we’re transitioning from DSS to the pantries,” Social Services Volunteer Coordinator Gloria Haney said. “We also appreciate each of the pantries involved for participation in the program to help feed the hungry in our community.”
DSS refers those in need to the local food pantries as well as keep a track and report the numbers to the USDA for the allotment. Each county has an allotment based on the number of households served in a six month period. Previously, food was being distributed quarterly but now it is being distributed monthly due to the increased need. Also, with more opportunities for distribution more people can be fed and the USDA will allocate more food to be distributed. Some of the local participating pantries also add to the supplies.
“We always need donations for Loaves and Fishes of Union County operations,” Jeanne Davis-Diehl, the organization’s executive director, said. Loaves and Fishes alone provides groceries to more than 4500 people for an estimated 115,000 meals each year, Diehl said. The organization, 202 Stewart Street in Monroe, is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m to 1 p.m.
“USDA specifies the requirements, supplies the food and we distribute it according to their guidelines. The only additional resources we needed to provide were space,” Diehl said. “The space we were already using for storage and the additional volunteers needed for the second location and extra hours.”
Other pantries taking part in the project include Monroe’s Operation Reachout, 1308 Miller Street, and Open Arms in Wingate. To reach all areas, officials are still looking for a pantry to partner with in the Indian Trail area.
“The other participating pantries spread over all areas of the county are open different days and hours than ours to give as many opportunities as possible for folks to get their food.” Diehl said.
According to Haney, those in need of food just need to select a participating pantry closest to them. She asks that residents give that pantry a call to find out when a distribution will be made. Residents then have to fill out an application providing information such as gross income and number of people in the home. Anyone already on food stamps automatically qualifies.
Any churches or organizations with pantries that would like to participate Haney asks that they give her a call at 704-296-4312.