With the holidays fast approaching, local food banks are experiencing unusually high requests for kitchen staples.
By Mary O’KEEFE
A week away from Thanksgiving and thoughts of turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie are in the minds of most, but some folks are just hoping they can feed their family any type of dinner. And places where those in need typically turn are finding themselves short on supplies.
The Salvation Army in Glendale is reporting the lowest food donations in years.
“I am really scared this year, we are lower than we have ever been,” said Rick White, director of Social Services for the Salvation Army.
The tough economy is a Catch-22 for the Salvation Army’s food pantry with donations down and demand up. The pantry has been the recipient of a couple of food drives, one recently from the PTA at some of the schools within the Glendale Unified School District. The donation from that event was down as well, White said.
“We have a few more [food drive opportunities] with some Boy Scout troops Scouting for Food donating and the National Charity League, both this weekend,” he said.
The need for food has been steadily increasing throughout the recent economically distressed years, however this year appears to be the worst.
“When I started [at the Salvation Army Glendale] four years ago, we had an average of about 18 families a day needing [food],” White said. “We are averaging 27 families a day with a busy day seeing 50 families.”
All the families are from the Glendale area.
“We are seeing a lot of the increase coming from seniors,” White added. “Food is getting so expensive.”
Some of those visiting the Salvation Army pantry told White they had gone to other banks, like the Los Angeles regional food banks, however they were running low, too.
Food banks are not the only organizations that have seen a decrease in donations; other agencies that help families put meals on the table have seen a decrease in giving as well.
One of the recent casualties of the economy is the Treasure Box program. For about three years the program offered reduced rates for food. A box had a variety of meat, vegetables and desserts, all frozen, and averaging about $32. In September that program ended.
St. George’s Episcopal Church in La Cañada started training for the program in June, their first distribution was in August and the last was September. Although the church had only begun the program, the need was there.
“We started to increase [in requests]. We hadn’t really had a chance to put the word out,” said Rev. Anthony Keller of St. George’s.
In an email explaining to St. George’s the end of the Treasure Box program, the reason given was the “continued downward economic spiral has forced a dramatic shift in the retail landscape over the past six to nine months.”
“The mass retailers, stung by the poor economy and a nosedive in their profits, jumped into the discount food market,” the email stated. “They began carrying food items and using loss leaders to bring in more traffic. Their buying power exceeds ours, so they’ve even adversely affected our ability to purchase some of our great food products at low prices.”
Keller added the people that had signed up for Treasure Box were not homeless nor destitute, but families and seniors in need.
“I do think there is [still] a need. The people that we would serve were really not considered poor or homeless but families that were struggling. They were underground, people that if you saw on the street you would never think they were struggling,” Keller said.
White said the end of programs like the Treasure Box could explain, in part, the increase in traffic that the Salvation Army pantry is experiencing. He is hopeful the weekend’s food drives will bring in the needed food, but is not positive they will get enough in time.
“You think it is bad and then, you see worse.”
Glendale Salvation Army food pantry is located at 320 W. Windsor Road, Glendale. For information, contact the office at (818) 246-5586. The foods most needed are canned vegetables and fruits, dried beans, rice, canned tuna and pasta.