Food pantries hurting for cash as they prepare for Christmas –

Food pantries hurting for cash as they prepare for Christmas –

Christmas is coming and the Putnam County Food Pantry has an unusual need: Clients.

The novel coronavirus hasn’t been kind to the poor and hungry, but COVID-19 has been tough on the PC Food Pantry, too. Infection controls have required PC to offer restricted access and limited selection. As a result, clients haven’t come in typical volumes.

“We need people,” lamented manager John Shimkus, who’ll help anybody that comes in. “We are down 30% on our clients.”

Other food pantries across Starved Rock Country are gearing up for Christmas and don’t anticipate fewer clients. Quite the contrary. The pandemic figures to increase holiday demand and that means the food pantries need financial support.

“We’re asking for cash,” said Beth Vercolio-Osmund, director of development for the Community Food Basket in Ottawa, “both because of COVID concerns and also because cash is just more efficient.”

She explained that food donations aren’t as helpful in 2020 as in years past because they worry about surface transmission of the novel coronavirus. Cash, on the other hand, enables them to buy bulk food at a steep discount with fewer worries over handling.

Illinois Food Pantry in La Salle also is seeking monetary donations, though executive director Mary Jo Credi said she won’t necessarily turn away food donations.

COVID-19 prevented the La Salle pantry from holding its Mayflower food drive, with the result they need holiday staples such as turkeys, hams, gravy packets, instant potatoes, “anything to help our clients at the holidays.”

But Credi cautioned donors that infection control demands that food donations must come directly from the store.

“We cannot take food that has been in people’s cabinets,” she said, “and we cannot take expired food.”

But, again, cash is king. At Western Bureau County Food Pantry in Sheffield, manager Jackie Pilcher said surplus cash can be used for children’s treats or to meet unforeseen needs.

“We can use anything,” said Bertie Beckman, president of Streatorland Community Food Pantry, “but the best thing is money.”

COVID-19 has had one unexpected benefit for the Hall Township Food Pantry: Clients no longer shiver outside while waiting for food.

Jan Martin, executive director of the pantry in Spring Valley, explained the pantry had to switch from client’s choice to curbside pickup, which means she and her staff have to bundle up while clients wait outside with the engine running and the heat blowing.

“Actually, people love it,” Martin said. “They don’t have to stand in line, they can sit in their warm cars while they wait for food.”

Cash is welcome in Spring Valley because everything has been ordered. Martin anticipates having to feed 350 families this Yuletide, up from about 300 last Christmas, which means roughly one in 10 individuals in the pantry’s service area will seek food assistance this year.

Published at Sat, 28 Nov 2020 21:13:04 +0000

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